Christmas History

In the comic strip Peanuts, Charlie Brown is lamenting that Linus will have to go to school twice as long as others…in order to unlearn everything big sister Lucy (mis)taught him! This humorous aside reveals something important: sometimes we have to shed wrong ideas in order to understand the truth of any matter.

The Advent Season and celebration of Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on the Incarnation of the Almighty, the arrival of Jesus as God with us. We are astonished at the mystery of Mother Mary nursing her Creator and Redeemer. We offer our worship as we join with the angelic hosts proclaiming peace with the birth of our Lord and Savior. As we, like Mary, treasure in our hearts the profound truth that the crèche of Bethlehem will soon yield to the Cross of Calvary as Jesus atones for the sins of all humankind.

It is also fitting that we unlearn a few things about this moment in history:

  • Joseph, Mary and Jesus were not homeless and poor. They we returning to their ancestral home for the census and found overcrowded conditions leading to modest lodgings in a barn. Jesus’ upbringing would be classified today as an artisan, small business owner or working class.
  • The Wise Men from the East arrived about 18 months after the birth of Jesus in an entourage of scores of people. These were Persian leaders and scholars alerted to Messiah’s birth by heavenly signs.
  • Christmas as a Christian holiday has been controversial from the 4th C to the present, with many rejecting its materialism and syncretism with winter solstice celebrations. As late as the mid-19th century, many churches and even states in the USA has no official Christmas Holiday!
  • Jesus is born in a geography that was a crossroads of the continents and cultures. Though considered a country backwater by the Roman Empire, Judea was in fact a place of deep learning and tradition in Judaism as well as a locale where the Greek was the marketplace language and Roman Law provided stability.

Celebrating Christmas is good. Adapting local cultural expressions into Christian worship is accepted by most around the world. As we enjoy this Season, it is fitting to renew our covenant with the Lord and share this Good News with a confused and rebellious world.

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