The Story of Christmas
The Gift of God
"Throughout history, many men would claim to be gods, only one God would become a man" -Anonymous
"Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."
The book of Isaiah was written over 700 years before the birth of Christ. It prophesied the birth of the Messiah: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (God is with us). For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."
Centuries later, a young woman learns that she has been chosen by God and is part of His plan as outlined by the Prophet Isaiah. The Gospel of Luke records: "The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David and the virgin’s name was Mary . . . he said to her, 'Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.' But she was greatly troubled . . . And the angel said to her 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.' And Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God . . . For nothing will be impossible with God . . .'"
The Gospel of Matthew records Joseph's account: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins . . .' And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus."
The Birth of a Savior
"Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. . . . And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem . . . along with Mary. . . . And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn . . . There were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased' And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. . . . And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God. . . . And when eight days were completed before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb…"
"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem. . . . And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh…"
The genealogy of Jesus is outlined from Mary’s lineage in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph's can be found in the Gospel of Matthew. A study of the ancestry affirms the fulfillment by Jesus of the two requirements for kingship in the Hebrew Scriptures; Davidic descendant and divine appointment For a detailed review and analysis, please see the publication "The Genealogy of the Messiah" at Jews for Jesus (.org).
December 25th and Christmas Trees
Some people insist the date of Jesus' birth could not have occurred during the winter. They cite Scripture, which states there were shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night when an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them (Luke 2:8-9). They maintain that flocks would not be outside in the winter. However, there is documentation to support the notion that flocks stayed outside year round.
During the time of the Early Church, Romans would celebrate the winter solstice with a festival on December 25th. The Romans commemorated the solstice with a feast of Saturnalia in honor of Saturn (god of agriculture) and observed the occasion by decorating their homes and temples with evergreen branches.
Christians sought to replace pagan festivals with Christian celebrations and commemorations and chose the date of December 25th as the date to observe and honor the birth of Christ. It is believed that the tradition of the Christmas tree we have today began in Germany in the 16th century.
Christmas or Xmas
At times, you will see the word Christmas spelled as Xmas, and some Christians take offense with this spelling believing the “X” is used to take Christ out of Christmas.
Another theory is that the X is the abbreviation taken from the Greek alphabet, the language in which the New Testament was written. The letter ‘chi’ is similar to the English letter X, and abbreviations and symbols have often been used in the church. The first two letters of the word Christ are the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P). These letters were used in the early church to create the Chi-Rho monogram which became part of the official battle standard of Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century.
Many well-known hymns are sung during Christmas; these are a few:
- Angels We Have Heard on High
- Away in a Manger
- Deck the Halls
- The First Noël
- God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
- Handel's Hallelujah Chorus
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
- It Came upon the Midnight Clear
- Joy to the World
- O' Come All Ye Faithful
- O' Holy Night
- O' Little Town of Bethlehem
- Silent Night
- The Twelve Days of Christmas
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas
- What Child Is This
These songs are all classics and bring joy to Christians and non-Christians alike. Many have been featured in Christmas movies such as A Christmas Carol.
A Savior is Born
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."
For information on other topics, please see the following articles;