Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Celebration

IF Thanksgiving is the most celebrated U.S. holiday (ie:  # of people)
SO Christmas is the most loved - it's more than Christmas Day, it's the Christmas Season!!

Question?  What does the Bible say about the celebration of Christmas?
Answer - Nothing!!
On one hand, much is said about His Birth - and the importance of His birth,
But, not much said about a special day, observation, ritual, etc.

Question?  Why has Christmas become such a holiday??
Answer - a mixture of secular and Christian reasons.
A)  for Christians - it's natural to commemorate, celebrate and event as important as the incarnation!  (God coming in the flesh)
B)  for people generally - people are always ready for a holiday - Christmas has special appeal!

Question?  When did the celebration of Christmas begin?
Answer - don't know exactly, ..... but early.  The 1st. known reference to the December 25th. date is in "Chronology of 354" (an illustrated, codex calendar)

Question?  Do Christmas traditions have pagan roots?
Answer - possibly, likely ... example:  winter solstice;  Deus Sol Invictus = the Undefeated Sun god - celebrated in 3rd. century Rome on December 25th.

BUT, if this date was "borrowed" from pagans, it was instilled with Christian truths!!  - Example:  John 1:4-5,9

Naturally, some early Christians objected because:
1)  not told to celebrate Christmas
2)  don't know the date of His birth
3) some pagans often celebrated birthdays

Christmas as a holy day (holiday) was common by the Middle Ages ...
Charlemagne - crowned emperor - Christmas day AD800 by Pope Leo III
Likewise, King Edmund in 855, William I of England in 1066.
 1377 AD, King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feat with 28 oxen and 300 sheep - "merry making" led to common "misrule" which led to more serious problems.  Became an excuse for lewid behavior.  Became a "hybrid holiday" - church (religious) and secular

So.... the protestant reformers often opposed the celebration of Christmas.
Example:  after the English Civil War (& the execution of Charles I), Parliament (with a majority of Puritans) BANNED Christmas in 1647 as "a popish festival with no biblical justification".
(Churches were closed, shops open, fines for celebrating levied)
This led to A)  Riots in Canterbury
                 B) the book "The Vindication of Christmas" - in 1652.
The ban ended in 1660 when Charles II was restored to the throne.

The English were not the only ones!  In 1640, Scotland's Parliament banned the observance of Christmas, stating "the church has been purged of all superstitious observance of days".  (It was not re-instated as a public holiday in Scotland until 1958!!!)

In America??
-- Celebration of Christmas was banned in Boston 1659 - 1681
-- ban was lifted 1681, but most didn't celebrate Christmas till the mid-19th. century (in the Boston area)

Other colonies celebrated Christmas enthusiastically, BUT, Christmas fell out of favor with the colonies after the Revolutionary War because it was considered an English custom!!

Naturally, Christmas prevails.
In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore wrote "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (Night Before Christmas)
1843 - 1st. Commercial Christmas cards
1850 - A Harriet Beecher Stowe character complains of "the true meaning of Christmas lost in a shopping spree".
By 1860, 14 states adopted Christmas as a legal holiday.
1870 - it was declared a US Federal Holiday (by Ulysses S. Grant)

BUT, objections continue..... ACLU - "government funded displays of Christmas imagery and traditions violate the 1st. Amendment"  (at least they recognize the religious significance)

So.... The Christmas celebration has long, varied, interesting history and we ought to be cautious declaring HOW it should be celebrated.

BUT, if you celebrate as a Christian, then you should remember the Essence (heart, core) of the celebration = the INCARNATION!!!!!  - God made flesh Phil. 2:6-7 - did it to Himself

On one hand, God visited His people many times, but this visitation was special and unique.  John 1:1, 14  It was unparalleled - Matt. 1:23 - Emmanuel - literal (God with us)

Two Questions:
I.  The How of the Incarnation
ie:  How God became man yet remained God?
        Short answer = the Trinity (3 beings in one)
        Long answer = it's a mystery
1 Tim. 3:16 - the Trinity makes it possible

II.  The Why of Incarnation
ie:  Why did God become man??
Some answers:
Primary - A)  To Redeem Us  ie:  to buy back/through a physical sacrifice of Himself.   Physical sacrifice/death requires physical life.
Question = HAD to???   Matt. 16:21   Luke 24:26, 46  Heb. 10:5-7  Mark 14:35-36

which leads to:  B) to Reconcile us - 2 Cor. 5:18-19  Heb. 4:16 - we can know God as Father in a different way.

Also, C) to Reveal truth(s) to us - John 1:18 - Jesus came to teach things

Therefore:  D) to inform/instruct us - Mark 6:34 - about the Kingdom of God

And, believe also to E) identify with us - we identify with a person better - one born of woman, lived as a boy, lived as a man
Heb. 1:1-2, 4:14-15 - He was a person, but the Incarnation was not for Him, but for us!!

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