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The Origins of Christmas
by Jack Wellman
2011-12-17 10:11:20
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Christmas is a special time of year and one of the greatest of the Christian Holidays.  In fact, the word holiday originally comes from the word Holy Day.  It seems to be politically incorrect for many to say "Merry Christmas" because of the myth that this nation was founded on the separation of church and state.  In reality, the term "separation of church and state" is not found in the U.S. Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, or in any U.S. Civil Laws.  This was a statement coming from Thomas Jefferson when he wrote this in a personal memoir due to the fear of the nation having a state-sanctioned religion which was the very reason that many came to this nation in the first place.

motheranddaughter_400_01The word Christmas is from the Old English words "Cristes Measse" which essentially means a "Christ Mass".  This was a holy convocation that celebrated the arrival of the "Christ" or Messiah.  Christ means "the anointed" in Greek (Christos).  Today we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, the Winter Solstice.  This day is the day which has the longest period of darkness in the Northern Hemisphere - the day when the sun ends its southward retreat and begins to move northward and the daylight portion begins to increase.  Many of the early Christians thought that since the Pagans celebrated the "rebirth" of the sun on December 25th, the perfect parallel is that this pictured the birth of the "Son of God." No specific date for the birth of Christ is known although scholars believe it was in the late autumn.  Regardless, the birth of Christ is a day in which Christians celebrate the earthly arrival of the Son of God in human flesh.  Without this arrival of Immanuel (or "God with us"), humans would have no way in which to be reconciled to God since our sins had separated us from Him since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

Immanuel - God With Us

One of the Old Testament names for Jesus Christ is Immanuel which means "God with us."  The coming of Jesus Christ was foretold hundreds of years before Jesus was born.  The Old Testament prophet Micah was very specific about where Jesus would be born and for what purpose, writing, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans (or rulers) of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" Him (Micah 5:1-2).    Another Old Testament prophet pointed to the miraculous conception or immaculate conception to come, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you (plural, meaning you all) a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (literally, God with us)” (Isaiah 7:14).

Joseph, who was betrothed to Mary, was told to "not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,(means "Savior") because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: (Micah) “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(Matt 1:20b-23).  The Father of Jesus was God the Father, He was conceived by God the Holy Spirit, and was born of a virgin to become the only begotten Son of God who was to die for the sins of those who would come to believe in Him.  This fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy from Psalms 2:7, "You are my Son, Today I have begotten You."  This is mentioned in Hebrews 1:5-7 "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"...“I will be his Father, and he will be my Son” And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says “Let all God’s angels worship him.” In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire."

So celebrate this Christmas that Jesus came to save those that were lost - to dwell as "God with us" and to rescue us from the sins that had separated us from Him.  We therefore wish you a Merry Christmas...made merry be His coming to earth, being born of a virgin, living a sinless life as the only Son of God, and rescuing us from our sins.  A Savior has been born to us and we thank God for Him.  The greatest gift of all came at Christmas.  It is a mass - a holy convocation.  A mass for Christ Who came to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  There is no greater gift that has ever been given to humans.  Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.

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Emanuel Paparella2011-12-17 12:10:08
Thank you Jack for sharing with us the true meaning of Christmas, beyond the celebration of the Roman Saturnalia which the holiday has become.

I don’t know how it is within the Protestant Christian tradition, but in the Catholic Christian tradition, at the Christmas Mass (which for Catholic is much more than a convocation or even a symbolical commemoration of the Last Supper...) the first reading is from the Prologue of St. John which in a condensed form goes like this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .He was in the beginning with God. . . . All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being. . . in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. . . . The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

In those words you have the full meaning of Christmas and indeed Christianity, and what it means to be a Christian: the belief that there is a creation and a beginning, that the universe has a meaning (“Word,” or the Greek Logos is sometimes translated as “the point of it all”) and a purpose, that the God who created it is providential and cares for it, to the point of taking a body and becoming Emmanu El, God with us within the human condition and providing the light needed in the darkness of the cave in which we live…That is indeed good news which, were we able to really believe it, would bring us together and make the salvation of the euro or the dollar completely secondary and even irrelevant. Merry Christmas to all men of good will.

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