Happy Birthday Jesus

This week we celebrate the birth of God made man, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Modern media tells us that December 25th has nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity.  It is rather an imported Roman pagan holiday of Saturnalia that celebrated sacrificing an innocent victim in a week-long orgy of rape, sexual license and intoxication ending on December 25th.  The early church leaders hoped that by bringing this holiday into the liturgical calendar they would attract pagan converts.  To overcome its more egregious practices, the church substituted Jesus’ birth for the pagan celebration’s reason.  This, so we are now told, is the origin of Christmas.

Folks, they are wrong.  Here is why we celebrate the Lord’s birth on December 25th but before I give you the explanation, you need to understand who Jesus is.

There is one God who created all.  In His infinite glory, He manifests Himself in three aspects: God the Father, Jesus, who is the Word of God made flesh and the Holy Spirit who is the love of the Father and Jesus emanating from God and His Word.

Jesus’ first appearance in scripture is not in the New Testament gospels.  He begins in Genesis, chapter 1, verse 3; “God said ‘let there be light’ and there was light.”  Jesus is the Word of God and the creative action of God.  When God speaks in Genesis’ creation narrative, it is Jesus, who is one with the Father from all eternity, who is the power that does the Father’s will.  When God says ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves’ His use of the plural ‘our’ encompasses God’s aspect of the Father and of His Word.

Jesus, the man, comes to us as an expression of God’s inestimable love for His creation, mankind.  He sent His Word to us in human form.  Jesus came to earth fully man but conceived from God Himself.  John explains this in chapter 1 of his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word:

the Word was with God

and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through Him all things came into being,

not one thing came into being except though him.

And further in this chapter, John explains:

The Word was the real light

that gives light to everyone;

He was coming into the world.

He was in the world

that had come into being though him,

And

The Word became flesh,

He lived among us,

and we saw his glory,

the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father,

full of grace and truth.

The Word was made flesh by God’s endless power.  Luke’s beautiful narrative of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary tells the world that God is sending His Word to mankind in human form by the power of his Holy Spirit.  Mary will miraculously conceive a child and he will be named Jesus.  And Mary said

“You see before you the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said.”

The Word became man.  He lived thirty years among us, hiding, as it were, in plain sight.  Then he began his ministry, teaching us how to live according to God’s will and for this he was crucified at Passover, three years later.  Jesus let this happen to fulfill God’s sacred promise of redemption for mankind.

Passover is celebrated based on the Jewish lunar calendar.  The Jewish calendar of the time had twelve months one year and thirteen months in the following year.  The first month of the year is named Abib and corresponds with the vernal equinox.  In Exodus, chapter 12, Yahweh told Moses and Aaron that ‘this month must be the first of all months for you, the first month of your year’.  He further set out the instructions for the Passover sacrifice.  The Lamb of God, the constellation Ares, in celestial terms, which is the ram, is fully visible in the night sky during Passover.

The early church believed that the day of Jesus’ death was the same day of the year as the announcement of incarnation of the Word of God to Mary by the angel Gabriel.  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit at Passover and he died on the cross at Passover.  The Carthaginian priest Tertullian affirmed this tradition as early as the second century A.D.  The second century theologian Irenaeus also placed the date of the annunciation as what would be March 25th in our modern calendar.  In 525, Dionysius Exiguus developed the Anno Domini calendar system and established March 25th as the beginning of the new year, since the era of grace began with the incarnation of Christ.  Christ’s passion and his miraculous conception have been joined together since the beginning of the Church.

And what does this have to do with Christmas Day?  Advance the Annunciation of the Lord nine months from March 25th and Jesus’ birthday would be December 25th.  That is how the early church figured it.  We do not celebrate a pagan holiday overlaid with Christian traditions.  We celebrate the Angel of God announcing the Lord’s coming and our redemption in His death.  We who believe in Him are saved by His blood and that is the greatest Christmas present of all.

Happy birthday baby Jesus.

 

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