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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Christians and Christmas

A Medieval ChristmasThe first Christians did not celebrate Christmas for at least 250 years after Christ’s death. The first celebrations of Christmas probably took place in Egypt. As early as 273 AD, however, Western Christians had decided on December 25 as the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Pope Julius formally selected December 25 as the birthday of Christ in 320 A.D. One reason for choosing this date was to combat the pagan celebrations during this time of year. The church, for the most part, was successful. In 325 A.D Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor officially declared December 25 as the day of the birth of Christ.

By 336 A.D., the Roman church calendar definitively records a nativity celebration by Western Christians on this date. Christmas Day was first known as the Feast of Nativity. Christmas means “the Mass of Christ.” This name was chosen by the Christian church to disconnect Christmas from the pagan celebrations of that culture. As one fourth century theologian penned, “We hold [Christmas] this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”

Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 529 A.D. and it was declared a civic holiday. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. Each Christmas, believers attended church, and then celebrated in a carnival-like atmosphere, which was often not very Christian. Perhaps, there is some comparison of this to the modern secular Christmas.

Bitterness and Resentment

The Practice of GodlinessJerry Bridges:

Uncontrolled temper is soon dissipated on others. Resentment, bitterness, and self-pity build up inside our hearts and eat away at our spiritual lives like a slowly spreading cancer. (The Practice of Godliness, p. 141)

Christ’s Birthday

Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin:

How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.

A Birth of Great Significance

JesusOn December 25th millions of people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is an annual holiday and is considered one of the most holy on the modern Christian calendar. However, did you know that most Protestant churches did not begin celebrating Christmas until the 1800’s?

We really do not know the exact day of Jesus’ birth. Nevertheless, this does not diminish its importance. The birth of Jesus is a worthy subject to occupy our minds during any season of the year. On this third Sunday of Advent, let us consider the significance of the birth of Christ and what it means to you.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV) The name Immanuel signified that God would live among men and establish His kingdom. (Isaiah 9:6-7) Micah tells us that a ruler would be born in Bethlehem who would bless Israel and the ends of the earth. (Micah 5:2-5)

The very name of Jesus signified salvation from sin. (Matthew 1:18-21) John the Baptist acknowledged, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV) Jesus’ birth means that God was about to set up His kingdom as promised by the prophets. (2 Samuel 7:12-13, Daniel 2:44)

The birth of Jesus presented the world with its Savior and Lord. It offered peace to those with whom God is pleased. (Luke 2:8-14 ESV) His birth would give light to the Gentiles and glory to Israel while resulting in the fall and rising of many in Israel. (Luke 2:25-35)

The significance of Christmas is that it made possible the establishing of the kingdom of God and salvation from sin. This would not, of course, be possible without the ensuing suffering and death of Jesus on the cross followed by His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God.

Let us avoid the secular materialism of our present culture’s “x-mas”. During this third week of Advent, reflect on your response to Jesus’ birth. Why would God choose to become a man? What should be our response to this? Does the celebration of His birth give you a deeper understanding of the significance of His death and resurrection?

Samuel at Gilgal

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