Is Christmas really Christian, or are we merely Christianizing a holiday on which other traditions had first dibs? Wasn’t December 25th originally a pagan festival? Perhaps Xmas is the appropriate term for the holiday and our forbearers have been rash to put ‘Christ’ into Christmas…What if Jesus wasn’t even born on the eve of December twenty-fifth?—Isn’t it ridiculous to celebrate an event, the date of which we are uncertain?
We’ve entered the bustling final month of the year. Holiday cheer is rising in intensity; lights be-daub residential rooflines and commercial checkouts. Evergreens make their way into our living rooms, while merchants gleefully enjoy a month of unmatched consumer appetite.
For those who wonder whether we can merely make Christmas a celebration of lights and family and friendship, letting Christ be celebrated elsewhere in our hearts—as He ought to be all days of the year—perhaps there is more to consider. What do we know of Christ’s entry onto the human stage one undated night in history?
Jesus’ historical birth happened one starry night—perhaps between 6 and 4 B.C.—during a Roman Empire census-taking in Palestine. Traveller accommodations were scarce. His young parents did the best they could, securing shelter in a non-descript stable, perhaps a cavern in the rock behind an inn-transformed habitation.
Some unusual events preceded and attended His birth: a virginal conception, an angelic announcement alerting shepherds in nearby fields with the news and an unusual sign (a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger). A unique star would direct a group of eastern mystics to the residence of the infant to pay tribute appropriate for a child-king; the Magi would inadvertently provoke the wrath of a murderous Herod-the-Great upon all infant Jewish boys causing an infanticide reminiscent of that in Egypt some centuries earlier.
Then this unique child, Jesus, would mature to become a man who was faultless, worked stunning miracles among the empire-oppressed people, claiming to be the Son of God, light of the world, long-awaited Messiah and Savior of all people. He would be executed at the prime of His life by the Roman Empire at the insistence of the Jewish ruling class, and reappear in resurrected form some days later. After appearing to hundreds of witnesses, He disappeared, promising to return to rule a remade heaven and earth in magnificent glory.
Not only does His advent into human history begin some two thousand years ago and move to embrace humanity’s corporate future. Prophecies recorded in the ancient writings of Old Testament authors encompass the entirety of our corporate past. He fulfills the particular roles of “offspring (of Eve who) will crush (the) head (of Satan)”—Genesis 3:15, written around 1450 B.C., referencing the early era of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden; He is also “A great light (who) has dawned…To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end”—Isaiah 9:2, 6-7, written in the 8th century, B.C.; and One “out of (Bethlehem who) will come for (God), one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”—Micah 5:2, also from the 8th century B.C.
The point to grasp is that the birth of Jesus Christ is a momentous occasion in human history. It marks the plan of God from eternity past through eternity future. His purpose is to beget Himself in human genes and divine intention in order to rescue for Himself people who are finally free—free to turn from sin’s destructive deathward spiral, and free to choose eternal life by Christ’s redeeming work.
Why not celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth? Why not choose one day of the year to remember an act of God that forever changes both the history and future of the inhabitants of this planet? Why not use lights and family and friendship to be the theme of this celebration? God brings light and love to this dark, hopeless world!
Father God, Incarnate Son, Spirit indwelling Your people; Accept our meager gift of celebrating Christmas, of focusing our thoughts on Your advent. We don’t know the actual night You entered this world as a fragile baby. You have chosen not to have had it recorded. We want to participate in this season, recalling the advent of Your arrival in order to honour You. We want to fill our minds with remembrances of that holy, silent night. We want to anchor our lives in the peace and joy of the freedom You give us from ultimate death because of Your own birth, death and resurrection. Lord, accept our worship of You. Bring others into Your great family whose hearts are softened by Your Spirit; as the simple shepherds worshiped You that starry, nameless night, may You draw many to worship Your majesty even this Christmas.
(Painting Credit; By http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/7f/b6/5da112e3f84e5dc0025025fdca03.jpgGallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/V0034617.html, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36615546)