You won’t find Christmas under the tree

santaqqqqq

You won’t find any mention of Christmas in the Bible. The early Christians did not celebrate Christmas because the   primary focus was on His life, crucifixion, and particularly His resurrection. It wasn’t until around 200AD that a day was set aside to mark the birthday of Christ.

For some reason, the Christmas celebrations grew from a day of fasting and praying to a season of banqueting and celebration of pagan rituals in some parts of the world.

That dour Puritan Oliver Cromwell, horrified by the debauchery and moral decay, banned the celebration of Christmas in Britain for 22 years.  An Act of Parliament in 1644 banned mince pies, the hanging of holly and all merrymaking during the Christmas period.

Around the same time, Puritans in America also enacted laws against Christmas. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Christmas became an official holiday in the US. Scotland took even longer, officially ending a 400-year-old ban on Christmas celebrations only in 1958.

Of course, December 25 is probably not the real date of Christ’s birth anyway. Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year.

Church father Clement of Alexandria somehow calculated that the actual date of the birth could be August 28, May 20, March 21, or April 21.

Whatever, Christmas Day is now December 25 – and January 7 for orthodox faiths that follow the old Julian calendar.

Rome’s Christians co-opted the December 25 date to celebrate the birth of their Son of God. For better or worse, there was also absorption of the pagans’ zest for merriment and abandon, as well as their penchant for decorating with evergreens.

The Puritans have been outnumbered and overwhelmed by a multicultural society that discovered the value of a holiday devoted to the consumption of food and loot.

But Christmas was not invented to satisfy the retailers. Nor to force a public holiday. It was not invented to make sure little children were good for a few weeks so that they could receive oodles of gifts.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once described Christmas as “a vile interruption of routine”. But he was a cynic.

Christmas, after all, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. To Christians, it is the celebration of the Incarnation of the Word.

Christianity is unique in this .Most religions allow for a distant deity, not a god who enters human history to be a part of the human situation.

The birth of Christ was a historical event in which the past and future became somehow merged in the present.

Does it matter that Jesus was unlikely to have been born on December 25?

Christmas celebrations will always cross fluid boundaries between sacred, secular and profane realms.

In some ways, the modern Christmas celebrations seem at odds with the mission of the man from Nazareth.

The commercial Christmas philosophy is often about greed and indulgence. The Christ message is about learning to give of ourselves.

But what matters most to believers is that the Christ child was born, probably in a stable or a cave in the poorest of conditions one night about 2000 years ago in the Middle East. And that changed the world.

That is the real point of any celebration this week.

 

Advertisements

30 thoughts on “You won’t find Christmas under the tree

  1. The festival of Saturnalia was celebrated from the 17 th of December and it lasted a week apparently. That’s where the date came from. That aside, to me, Christmas is celebrating love and life; the gifts that God gave the world through Jesus. It’s a time, where, ideally, you demonstrate love to your friends, family, and others around you. The period between Christmas and New Year for me is exciting. A chance for new beginnings! That’s what God is all about right?

    It’s also about giving. I heard… I think it was on ‘The Project’, recently that the period leading up to Christmas is Salvation Army’s busiest time of year, both for donations and those asking for help. Every year, the local library collects food to give to families in need via the Catholic Church. So, the optimist in me says there is goodwill out there this time of year.

    Merry Christmas Bryan and everyone. 🙂

    Like

  2. I don’t think this has anything to do with your topic for today Bryan, but then again, perhaps it does. I was telling hubby how God had delivered the answer to prayer through a friend via my mobile phone (I didn’t have to wait for it to come in the mail, after all). He was amazed, and then called me blessed. Seeing as he was the second person in one day to call me blessed, it got me wondering what being blessed of the Lord really means. I certainly don’t feel blessed at times. In fact, if I recount all the rotten things that have happened in my life, you certainly wouldn’t think I was blessed. So, what does it mean to be blessed of the Lord? I love this explanation:

    WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BLESSED?

    I’ve always been intrigued by the idea presented in The Arabian Nights, when Aladdin finds the lamp and a genie permits him a wish. It makes me wonder what I would choose if given such a choice. Since I’ve never been wildly wealthy, the first things that come to mind are endless riches, a dream house, or luxury travel. But as soon as I think of those things, I wonder if that’s really what I want. I think of some of the names we see constantly in the tabloids and wonder if they would trade all their fame and fortune for some inner peace and a sense that what they’re doing matters.

    Of course, if I read my Bible with the intent of obeying what it says, I’ll find it difficult to wish for wealth and luxury. Jesus said things such as, “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20), and “those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:16, NLT), and “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return” (Luke 12:48, NLT), and “These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs” (Matthew 6:32, NLT).

    What was Jesus’ purpose in saying such things? Was it just to be a killjoy? Did he want to make sure we were miserable while here on Earth so we would long for heaven? Or was it because he knew what would really make us happy?

    To Be Blessed Means …

    One of my favorite Scripture passages is the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12, where Jesus lists what it means to be blessed. It’s certainly not what comes to my mind when I think of being blessed or when I pray for others to be blessed. Remember all those childhood prayers, “Bless Mommy, Daddy, and Auntie Sue”? We had no idea what we were saying! We were actually saying, “Let them be poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted.”

    So how could such things lead to happiness? It seems like they lead more to the opposite of happiness. But the Beatitudes tell us one thing clearly. We can never be happy when we live self-centered lives. We may be fooled into thinking we’re happy for a while, but eventually it will fold in on us because true happiness can be found only in a relationship with our Creator. Only the One who made us knows what will truly make us happy and give us satisfaction in life. We have to get to the end of ourselves and the beginning of God to gain any lasting contentment in life. And that can happen only through divine revelation and transformation through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. It’s the “pearl of great value” (Matthew 13:46), worth selling everything to gain it. And ultimately, it’s the secret to true satisfaction.

    Christianity Today

    I couldn’t agree more……”And that can happen only through divine revelation and transformation through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.” To say we have the Holy Spirit without God’s Word, is akin to witchcraft. It is not true Christianity.

    Like

    • Spot on Monica.
      Bless, from the Greek word makarios, which means to be happy or blissful, but it also means a self-contained happiness.

      The key here is self contained. In Jesus we are blessed. It is self contained within us. The holy Spirit dwells within us.

      Like

    • The question “What do you want for Chistmas?” is very like “What would you ask of the genie?”

      Apart from the obvious wish for further unlimited wishes, the three things most constantly favoured are health, wealth, and happiness.

      Without happiness, health is unimportant. Anyway, approaching the end of life, (the great adventure) , I accept that means failing health.

      What use would wealth be without happiness? What would happiness be if I were happy about all the injustices I see around us?

      I could wish for greater knowledge, but know that would bring resonsibilities that I’m not yet equiped for. I could wish for a closer relationship with God, if I did not already feel “Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.”

      After considering many possibilities, I might just come back to ‘wealth’. I could give it away. Then I’d have my measure of happiness too!

      Like

  3. On my phone calendar I have a Jewish calendar attached so that I can follow the Jewish feasts and remember where Jesus came from.

    Many of these holidays have counterparts in the New Testament. Pesach became the celebration of the Last Supper, First Fruits became Easter, and Shavuot became Pentacost. Some of the Holidays are known by their English translations or interpretations: Shabbat/Sabbath, Rosh HaShannah/Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippor/Day of Atonement, Succoth/Festival of Booths, and Chanukah/Feast of Dedication.

    There are two curious things about the celebration of Chanukah that point to Christ. Chanukah as the celebration of Christmas. We know that for the shepherds to be out as they are described in Luke (2:8-15), it had to be spring. The Council of Nicaea picked December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The month of December roughly corresponds to the Hebrew month Kislev and that Chanukah, the Feast of Dedication, begins on Kislev 25. It is then appropriate to tie God’s victory and our ability to dedicate ourselves to Him.

    Like

  4. And what is this theological core? It begins with the Word of God, the living Logos who was with God in creation. This eternal, divine Word “became human” (v. 14). That’s a valid rendering of the original Greek, which states literally that the Word (logos) became flesh (sarx). The Word of God didn’t just look like a human being. He didn’t just appear among us in some mysterious, other-worldly form. Rather, he became one of us, flesh and all.

    Here is the wonder of the Incarnation, the in-flesh-ment of the divine Word. For centuries, theologians have sought to explain this mystery, but their efforts only take us so far. We’ll never fully comprehend how an infinite God could take on finite flesh, how an all-powerful God could become a weak, vulnerable baby.

    Yet this truth is absolutely central, not only to Christmas but also to Christian theology and Christian living. We must beware of the tendency to deny the full humanity of Jesus, even as we also boldly affirm his full deity. In fact, one of the oldest heresies claimed that Jesus was divine but not really human (see 2 John 7, for example). Though most of us wouldn’t agree with this theology, we may have never taken time to reflect upon the implications of the Incarnation for our faith and life as Christians. In the next few days, I want to explore some of these implications with you.
    http://www.thehighcalling.org/articles/daily-reflection/keeping-christmas-well-focus-incarnation

    Like

  5. The 19th Century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, put before people a choice: Dionysos or the Crucified? He saw with clarity that there were two starkly opposed views of life being lived out around him. One followed Dionysos, or Dionysius, the Greco-Roman God of wine, who championed hedonism. The other was the Christian way, the way of the crucified saviour who gave his life for others. God taking on flesh to save the world — that’s crazy, said Nietzsche. Many today seem to agree with him.

    A new book called The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas agrees with Nietzsche, but wants to tell even him to chill out a bit when it comes to Christmas. If there is a summary message to The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas it is that atheists can have their Christmas cake and eat their godlessness, too. In other words, get Dionysian, have a great time at Christmas and don’t feel guilty about not being religious. That’s the summary message of the many short, humorous chapters that make up the book.

    Nietzsche was wrong to set his two worldviews so diametrically against each other, and I think the writers of this book make a similar mistake.

    The Christian worldview encompasses both the path of suffering and the joys and pleasures of life. It’s Dionysos and the Crucified, It’s both/and, not either/or, and the pleasures of the ceremonies around Christmas pull together the dramatic story of the saviour born in humble circumstances with the coming agony of his journey towards crucifixion and resurrection.

    For a jolly Christmas read, a lot of the writing in The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas is quietly melancholy. It is as if some of the authors are saying, “God, I wish this were true because it’s such a great story and it would give us such reason to celebrate”.

    They are right about the greatness of the story; I wonder whether it might have been rejected for the wrong reasons. If it occurred, as the Gospels claim, if God took human form and entered our world to bring us love and hope and peace, it is worth celebrating and also worth suffering for if it comes to that.
    https://publicchristianity.org/library/nietzsche-and-simon-le-bon-do-they-know-its-christmas#.VnTPVoRV9bs

    Like

  6. Many Wise Magi

    The Magi came to Jerusalem in a caravan with costly treasures and escorted by a strong force of armed Parthian soldiers!… These high officials would have travelled with a large entourage of servants, animal-handlers, cooks, etc., on such a long journey… There may have been thousands of Parthian soldiers escorting the caravan. This is not an overstatement. Josephus records that treasure caravans bringing expensive offerings to Jerusalem from Jews living in Parthian territory did so with “as many as ten thousand men” as escorts. In ancient times, travelling with expensive items was dangerous. There was danger not only from brigands, but also from local satraps who might use their armies to conquer a treasure train passing through their territories …

    The Wise Men were not bringing just a few samples of gold and other precious things that they carried in their personal saddle bags. They were coming to worship a King.The caravan was so big that their arrival quickly became a “cause celebre” in Jerusalem. The whole city was in an uproar over their arrival, and that argues for a very visible and impressive Parthian caravan arriving in Jerusalern not long after Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. The sheer size of the caravan and its escorts awed King Herod and the whole city to the point they were all “troubled”… It is clear that the Jewish hierarchy understood that the Parthians were looking for the Messiah as they quickly looked for Messianic prophecies to locate the city of His birth.

    After their consultations with Herod and Jewish officials, the Parthian delegation travelled to worship Jesus and present their gifts to Him. [After this both the Magi and Joseph were warned by God in dreams to leave Judea secretly and quickly, to avoid Herod’s jealous reaction.] …

    History records that Roman-Parthian relations were peaceful at the time that Jesus was born, and the Bible confirms this as the Parthian Magi did not sneak into Roman territory to look for the Messiah, but rather came directly to King Herod, quite open about their reasons for being in Roman-occupied Palestine. They informed Herod they had come to worship Him “that is born king of the Jews”… There is no record that Herod made any attempt to overtake or punish the Magi when they left. As Parthian nobles, they had “diplomatic immunity” and Herod dared not anger Caesar by provoking the Parthians” [and thus create an incident] …

    http://www.ensignmessage.com/archives/moreaboutmagi.html

    Like

  7. http://englewoodcog.org/Word/Birth_of_Christ.php

    Christmas is a time for giving. Not all gifts keep on giving, but there is one gift that is for everyone that does keep on giving. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as a gift to the World.

    Most of us have probably heard the story of the birth of Jesus, but what some may not realize is that His birth, right down to the last detail, was a fulfillment of thousands of Old Testament prophecies. These prophecies were written between 1450 BC and 430 BC. Manuscripts have been found to prove they were written at least 400 – 1000 years before He was born.

    It would be difficult enough to predict something 5 years away let alone 4-15 centuries, especially with the degree of detail and 100% accuracy. It would also be impossible for someone to plan to fulfill all the prophecies. The prophecies speak of timing, location and circumstances of birth. Who but God alone could plan such things?

    Below is a chart of just some of the O.T. prophecies concerning the birth of Christ. Along with each reference is the N.T. reference where the prophecy is fulfilled.

    1. Promised Through the Seed of Abraham:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Genesis 22:18
    New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 1:1

    2. Promised Through Isaac:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Genesis 21:12
    New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:34

    3. Out of the Tribe of Judah:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Micah 5:2
    New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:33

    4. Born in the Family of Jesse:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Isaiah 11:1
    New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:32

    5. Born in the House of David (King):

    Old Testament Prophecy: Jeremiah 23:5-6
    New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:31

    6. Born in Bethlehem:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Micah 5:2
    New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 2:4-7

    7. Born of a virgin:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Isaiah 7:14
    New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 1:18

    8. Worshipped and Presented gifts by Kings:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 72:10
    New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 2:11

    9. Worshipped by Shepherds:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 72:9
    New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 2:9

    10. Weeping for the Children

    Old Testament Prophecy: Jeremiah 31:15
    New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 2:16

    11. Flight to Egypt

    Old Testament Prophecy: Hosea 11:1
    New Testament Fulfillment: Matthew 2:13-14

    12. He will be called Lord:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 110:1
    New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 2:11

    13. He is the Son of God:

    Old Testament Prophecy: Psalm 2:7
    New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:22

    (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11)

    Like

    • Interesting that his descent is traced not only to David, but to Terah, the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. Christians revere Lot as a righteous man of God. According to the Bible, Jesus is a descendant of Lot through David’s great-grandmother Ruth, who is descended from Moab, Lot’s son through one of his daughters.

      Like

  8. Merry Christmas one and all.
    Hope the season reveals the reason for the season.
    Through God’s Grace and Revelation I pray blind eyes will see and that believers will go from strength to strength in His strength.

    Like

  9. A Christmas Message From John Lennox

    “We celebrate an awesome event that has inspired great literature, music, poetry and architecture such as that which we enjoy in this magnificent Abbey. The message of Christ has transformed countless lives, spawned hospitals, hospices and universities. It has abolished slavery and brought dignity to human life. As our Prime Minister recently said: “Christianity has had immense historic influence in the development of our culture and national institutions…we are a country with a Christian heritage and we should not be afraid to say so.

    Cosmologists tell us that 13.5 billion years ago the universe was smaller than a grain of sand – a mind stretching fact, yet one that pales into insignificance besides the realisation that 20 centuries ago the God who created the universe became a tiny seed in the womb of a humble young woman. The Word became flesh. God who had made man in his own image himself became human.

    The incarnation of God challenges the atheist belief that this universe is a closed system of cause and effect. We are told that at the time of Christ credulous people could believe in such miraculous happenings since they did not know the laws of nature. Now, in our enlightened scientific age this is impossible since miracles violate the laws of nature. The biblical records of them are just fantasies like Father Christmas.

    There are three errors here. Firstly, the comparison with Father Christmas is trivially false. I have never known an adult who came to believe in Father Christmas. I have known many adults who came to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

    Secondly, two of those adults are key figures in the Christmas narrative, Mary and Joseph. They were not credulous people. They knew as well as we do the basic laws of nature regarding where babies come from. So, when Mary was told by the angel that she would conceive, she protested: “How shall this be, since I do not know a man?” And we have just read how Joseph, on discovering Mary was pregnant, planned to divorce her. He, a devout and righteous man, was just not prepared to believe her account of a miraculous conception. Yet both of them were eventually persuaded that there was nothing immoral about the conception of Jesus by being given convincing evidence that the child had been supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit in a direct intervention by God.

    Thirdly, David Hume was wrong when he said that miracles like the incarnation cannot occur because they violate the laws of nature. What, after all, are those laws? They are our descriptions of what normally happens and they enable us to predict what will happen if no-one intervenes. However, God is not a prisoner of the laws that describe the regularities that He has built in to the cosmos. It is therefore no act of violation, if he intervenes in his own creation. For such intervention breaks no laws……

    “Unto us a Son is given…” Christmas is a special time of exchanging gifts as expressions of love, affection or gratitude. It is, however, possible for someone to accept a gift and yet reject the giver. Imagine you have invited guests to a Christmas dinner. Your guests eat the food with relish, talk to each other animatedly but say nothing to you. They leave without a word of thanks. An impossible situation, you say? Yet that is precisely how many of us have treated God this past year. We have taken his gifts of health, ability, job, home, food, family and friends, but we have never stopped to acknowledge or thank him. We have accepted the gifts but rejected the Giver…..

    the cross is the great point at which the suffering and sorrow, torture, trial and sin and yuck of the world ends up on God’s shoulders out of love for us.” And Christ can empower us to live because he rose from the dead.

    Like

  10. It wasn’t until around 200 AD that a day was set aside to mark the birthday of Christ.

    I would think the Christians that met Jesus would have loved Jesus pbuh more than any person 200 years later so why didn’t the first Christians celebrate birthdays ? Birthdays were around because the OT mentions people celebrating the birthdays of one of the worst people in biblical history, Pharaoh. Maybe that is a clue right there.

    For your information we are asking a similar question to the people who celebrate Mohammad pbuh birthday.

    Like

    • When you think of all the deliberate abortions (murder) in our world, I would think that celebrating a birth makes sense. You and I are numbered amongst the fortunate ones. We were allowed to live, and hopefully, make a difference in some small way.

      Like

    • Good point Monica. Trouble is the origin of birthdays and making a lot of noise was around warding off evil spirits on a change in life rather than being thankful. Lighting candles was sending prayers to the gods in the sky. Blowing out candles and making a wish was another. I can’t imagine Jesus pbuh would anyone to keep these traditions alive in his name.

      Like

      • You & I both……”bad grammar”‘. And with me, bad spelling and punctuation, and some dyslexia, I think. 🙂

        You should give us a teaching on this subject, as everything you’ve just mentioned is news to me. It’s certainly not a Christian teaching. I gather then that Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays because it’s considered a sin to do so? And is so, why? It would be great if you could enlighten us further Dom as I really am puzzled as to why you’re so dead against ‘celebrating’. Not sure if it’s just birthdays or in general? Thanks.

        Like

      • Okay, thanks Dom. I’ll read what they say, but just for your information I consider the ‘Church of God’ to be a cult and NOT representative of true Christianity. Their beliefs differ from ours, namely the Trinity, (nature of the Holy Spirit), Sabbath keeping, Baptism for salvation, etc, and that would be why I’ve not been taught this in my Christian faith experience, I’d say.

        Like

      • I dunno Dom, but I think the pastor in your link could do with a good dose of Christmas cheer. He needs to be reminded that there is freedom in Christ, and that if he wishes to be bound up in the chains of religiosity to make him feel more righteous than others, then that’s his choice. He certainly does not speak for God. But I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to learn about our many differences. Thanks.

        Like

      • No worries Monica. Still thought provoking that the first Christians that surrounded Jesus pbuh did not celebrate his birthday.

        Like

      • ” Still thought provoking that the first Christians that surrounded Jesus pbuh did not celebrate his birthday.

        Yep thought provoking indeed.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s