When this post is read Christmas and New Years might be past and only memories remain. Depending on circumstances, for some people the memories will be positive and for others sad. Christmas may be gone but life moves on. Perhaps some observations about Christmas and what it has meant for some people in the past and what it means now might be beneficial.
The Ancient Romans worshipped many and various gods. Many of the gods and goddesses were those worshipped prior by the Greeks. Gods worshipped in countries they conquered were also accepted into their culture. They virtually had a god for every aspect of their life. At one point in their history they worshipped the sun. They recognized their dependence on the sun’s yearly course in the heavens. The emporer Aurelian (214-275 AD) built a large temple dedicated to the ‘Unconquerable Sun’. He decided the sun would receive special attention on December 25. Also, it was the winter solstice and the last day of the Saturnalia which concluded with a week of celebration. Bonfires were built with the belief that this would energize the sun for another year.
Going back in time, almost 1000 years before the time of the emporer Aurelian, the birth of Jesus was predicted by God. Speaking through Isaiah he said, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin will conceive and bear a son and call his name Immanuel, (Isaiah 7;14). The word Immanuel means “God with us”. The birth of Jesus is recorded in Luke chapter 2.
The prophecy in Micah 5:2 says, “But you Bethlehem …. out of you shall come forth to Me the One …. Whose goings forth are from old, From everlasting”. This prophecy, some 600 years before the birth of Jesus, tells where he would be born and the word “everlasting” indicates that he was God.
That Mary gave birth to Jesus was a miracle, worked by God the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Mathew 1:18, ” ….she was found with child of the Holy Spirit”. God here set aside a natural law and worked a miracle. This miracle would impact the world forever.
As stated previously, the Romans had a major celebration on December 25. However, for certain Jesus was not born on December 25. Where Bethlehem is located December is wet and cold and probably the animals would not have been in the fields. Also, the shepherds would not have been in the fields to hear and see the angel of the Lord and the other angels. It is likely then that Jesus was born during a warmer time of the year. Further, The World Book Encyclopedia and historians state that the exact date of Jesus’ birth is uncertain.
Christianity, of course, started after Jesus’ crucifixion and christians were severely persecuted. The scriptures and the church did not call for any celebrations related to the birth of Jesus. This, however, slowly changed when the emporer Constantine claimed conversion to Christianity and in the Edict of Milan decreed that there be more tolerance for the Christian faith in the empire. Even though persecutions decreased people were slow in accepting Christianity. As a result the church in Rome decided to celebrate Jesus birth during the winter solstice to coincide with the Roman celebrations and attempt to christianize the celebrations. This, however, did not bring about a significant change. The Romans mostly continued their celebrations as before. Eventually the church of that time, during the fourth century, approved December 25 as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Rightly or wrongly that’s the way it is today.
This has been a bit of history about Christmas. It’s not all important to know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, but it is important to understand that he came as was predicted by the Old Testament prophets quoted above. Jesus came, born as a man, so that later he could offer his life to provide forgiveness for our sins.
Every person, daily, is in a different situation and a different place. God is omnipresent so he knows where you are and all about you and he wants to establish a relationship with you. Talk to him and ask him, in your own words, to come into your life.
Jesus said, spiritually speaking, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
Jesus also said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mathew 11:28).
God superseded natural laws to bring about Jesus’ birth, and some 30 years later his death and resurrection, because he cares for us.
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