The Christmas Story

 

The story

Matthew

(Mat 1:18-25 NIV)  {18} This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. {19} Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. {20} But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. {21} She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." {22} All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: {23} "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us." {24} When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. {25} But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

(Mat 2:1-16 NIV)  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem {2} and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." {3} When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. {4} When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. {5} "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: {6} "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" {7} Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. {8} He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." {9} After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. {10} When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. {11} On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. {12} And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. {13} When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." {14} So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, {15} where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." {16} When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

 

Luke

(Luke 2:1-40 NIV)  In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. {2} (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) {3} And everyone went to his own town to register. {4} So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. {5} He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. {6} While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, {7} and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. {8} And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. {9} An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. {10} But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. {11} Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. {12} This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." {13} Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, {14} "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." {15} When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." {16} So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. {17} When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, {18} and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. {19} But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. {20} The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. {21} On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. {22} When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord {23} (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), {24} and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." {25} Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. {26} It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. {27} Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, {28} Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: {29} "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. {30} For my eyes have seen your salvation, {31} which you have prepared in the sight of all people, {32} a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." {33} The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. {34} Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, {35} so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." {36} There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, {37} and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. {38} Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. {39} When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. {40} And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

The name and the date- From Holman’s Bible Dictionary

CHRISTMAS: Of the major Christian festivals, Christmas is the most recent in origin. The name, a contraction of the term "Christ's mass," did not come into use until the Middle Ages. In the early centuries, Christians were much more likely to celebrate the day of a person's death than the person's birthday. Very early in its history the church had an annual observance of the death of Christ and also honored many of the early martyrs on the day of their death. Before the fourth century, churches in the East--Egypt, Asia Minor, and Antioch--observed Epiphany, the manifestation of God to the world, celebrating Christ's baptism, His birth, and the visit of the Magi.

    In the early part of the fourth century, Christians in Rome began to celebrate the birth of Christ. The practice spread widely and rapidly, so that most parts of the Christian world observed the new festival by the end of the century. In the fourth century, the controversy over the nature of Christ, whether He was truly God or a created being, led to an increased emphasis on the doctrine of the incarnation, the affirmation that "the Word was made flesh" (John 1:14). It is likely that the urgency to proclaim the incarnation was an important factor in the spread of the celebration of Christmas.

    No evidence remains about the exact date of the birth of Christ. The December 25 date was chosen as much for practical reasons as for theological ones. Throughout the Roman Empire, various festivals were held in conjunction with the winter solstice. In Rome, the Feast of the Unconquerable Sun celebrated the beginning of the return of the sun. When Christianity became the religion of the Empire, the church either had to suppress the festivals or transform them. The winter solstice seemed an appropriate time to celebrate Christ's birth. Thus, the festival of the sun became a festival of the Son, the Light of the world. See Church Year. Fred A. Grissom 

The history and symbols

*   Sun worship persisted in Europe even after the introduction of Christianity, as is evidenced by its disguised survival in such traditional Christian practices as the Easter bonfire and the Yule log on Christmas.  © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

*   The common mistletoe figured significantly in the folklore and religions of pre-Christian Europe. Reputedly endowed with magical powers, it was used as a remedy for evil. It is used as a Christmas and New Year's decoration, and kissing under a branch of mistletoe is still customary. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

*   There has historically been opposition to the custom of the Christmas tree because of its alleged pagan origins. Thus, Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols and decorated trees. As pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland, Ohio decorated in 1851 what was likely the first Christmas tree in an American church, his parishioners condemned the idea as a Pagan practice.

*   The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship. The English language phrase "Christmas tree" is first recorded in 1835.

*   Elves are a pagan idea from Scandinavian countries and have nothing to do with Christ's birth. Santa's supposed reindeer come from Clement Moore's poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas", and have nothing to do with Christ's birth.

*   Santa is generally believed to be the result of a syncretization between St. Nicholas of Myra and elements from pagan Nordic and Christian mythology, and his modern appearance is believed to have originated in 19th century media.

*   The symbolic personification of Christmas as a merry old figure, Father Christmas,  begins in the early 17th century, in the context of resistance to Puritan criticism of observation of the Christmas feast.

*   Angels, stars, and candy canes are more recent additions that are added as Bible inspired additions.

*   The Nativity Scene is certainly Biblical in concept. However, the animals usually in the scene are not mentioned and the three magi are a total fabrication because the Magi were never at the manger. Perhaps a little literary license has been taken. Nevertheless, it is teaching a story different from the Bible.

The Bible admonition

*   (Jer 10:1-8 NIV)  Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel. {2} This is what the LORD says: "Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. {3} For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. {4} They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. {5} Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good." {6} No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. {7} Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. {8} They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols.

*   (Ezek 8:15-16 KJV)  Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. {16} And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD'S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.

Birthdays

(Eccl 7:1 NIV)  A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.

(Mat 14:6-8 NIV)  On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much {7} that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. {8} Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist."

(Mark 6:21-28 NIV)  Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. {22} When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you." {23} And he promised her with an oath, "Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom." {24} She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" "The head of John the Baptist," she answered. {25} At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: "I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter." {26} The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. {27} So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, {28} and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother.

(Gen 40:20-22 NIV)  Now the third day was Pharaoh's birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: {21} He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh's hand, {22} but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.

Some comments

Christmas is a very strange birthday celebration. The guests give each other more presents than they give to the one whose birthday they are supposedly celebrating. It is time when much of the Christmas spirit is found in a bottle. It is a time when expectations are seldom and many people go into debt giving to each other but give little or nothing to the Body of Christ.

 

Shakespeare has Juliet say,  “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The point is that you can call something whatever you want but that doesn’t change the thing. You can call sun worship Son worship but it is still sun worship if all the essentials remain the same.

 

Given that God specifically shows us the example of a Christmas Tree and tells us not to learn that way it seems clear to me that we should not do Christmas trees or any of the rest associated with Christmas. Given that nearly everything associated with Christmas is either pagan in origin or has nothing to do with the worship of the Lord. Why do we keep doing Christmas?

In closing consider this scripture.

(Josh 24:14-15 NIV)  "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. {15} But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."