Birthday of The Unconquered Sun

Ditukil mentah belantah dari kiriman saya di grup PMK ITB.

Shalom! Berhubung lagi rame-ramenya kiriman dari teman-teman non-Kristen di berbagai media sosial yang mengangkat isu bahwa Natal itu berasal dari perayaan pagan — dan ketercampuran-budaya itu membuat Kekristenan menjadi agama yang buruk — saya jadi gregetan dan menulis sebuah apologetik yang semoga bisa dijadikan referensi jawaban.

Hello, Followers! During the next half an hour, I’ll spam your timeline by a quick history of Christianity. Feel free to mute or unfollow. The topic is…

“Language and culture overtaking, and how it has helped Christianity to be successfully spread through these two millenia!”

Unlike Muslims, who have always insisted that the Quran is revelation only in the original Arabic, Christians do not confine God’s speech to the Hebrew of their Old Testament or the Greek of their New Testament. While Muslims have resisted translating the Quran (the first English translation by a Muslim did not appear until the 20th century), Christians have long viewed the translation, publication, and distribution of Bibles in various vernaculars (= sublanguages) as a sacred duty.

The “Jesus” movie which is distributed by the evangelical student group Campus Crusade for Christ International — widely known in this country as Lembaga Pelayanan Mahasiswa Indonesia — has been translated into over a thousand languages and viewed in more than 220 countries. Several tens of them are in Indonesian vernaculars.

Christianity hasn’t just adapted to local tongues. It has taken on local beliefs — from Confucianism in Asia to spirit possession in Africa. Members of the popular Kimbanguist Church of Congo celebrate Holy Communion with sweet potatoes and honey rather than bread and wine.

That’s because cultures and dates — e.g. Latin language and December 25th — have never been the essential parts of the Christian faith. Christianity has absolutely no problem with its adherents praying to God in their own languages while wearing their own traditional regalias.

That’s why, to appeal to Romans, it was totally acceptable to take over “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti”, a Roman’s December 25th celebration and replace the story of Mithras’ virgin birthday by the story of Jesus’ virgin birthday, due to their stories’ similarity.

(When preaching Islam in Indonesia through wayang, Sunan Kalijaga did a similar kind of culture take-over to appeal to Javanese natives. “Serat Jamus Kalimasada”, a holy tome owned by Puntadewa, was narrated “Kalimat Syahadat” by Sunan Kalijaga due to their sounding alike.)

Yet, in this decade, there are some who are seriously irritated by the fact that Christianity does not observe events on “accurate” dates. To all who still question why Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th, despite Christians knowing Jesus birth was on May or July:

Unique among all other major faiths, Christianity is more about a personal relationship than religious practices. Instead of sticking to a list of “do’s and don’ts”, the goal of a Christian is to cultivate a close walk with God.

There is no obligation to observe events on perfectly-calculated dates — it’s not unusual to find churches observing Christmas in February. No need to stick to certain culture or style — Christian music varies immensely from Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” to Bataknese gondang. Believers are welcome, and even encouraged, to assimilate their own acculturations to the Christianity — as long as they do not contradict the core beliefs.

So, non-Christian friends, you can stop worrying about whether or not “that Christian friend knows about the pagan origin of Christmas”. Most of us have known that, and have completely no problem with that. For, again, Christianity is not about dates and religious practices — it’s about the connectedness of humans and God.

Merry Christmas!


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