2020 means Christmas will look a little different from past Christmases. We will not be able to celebrate as we have done in the past with all our traditions. We each have our own traditions and stories, but many of the traditions have developed over the centuries. How would a personal celebration of Christmas today compare with one a 100 years ago or 500 years ago, or a 1000 years ago? So many traditions have developed over the centuries that the original story of Christmas has become hidden for many people. It seems today most everybody worldwide now celebrates Christmas.
Today, Christmas is truly a secular holiday. Even atheist Richard Dawkins observes Christmas. (You can get an atheist Christmas card with a Dawkins quote wishing you a merry Christmas.) Christmas has become a holiday of giving gifts. Today there are sentiments of love, compassion, and peace connected with Christmas, but most of the time the original story of Christmas is missing. Here is a short FAQ, answering some questions you may have and revealing some of the traditions connected with the original Christmas story but are not really part of the story.
What was the original celebration of Christmas all about? The original celebration of Christmas was about the birth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, born to the Virgin Mary.
Where is the story of the birth of Jesus recorded? It is found in the Bible, in the Book of Luke, Luke 2:1-20. (Read Luke 1 for some of the back story.). And also in Matthew (Matthew 1:18 – 2:12) there is another account of Jesus’ birth.
Was Jesus born in a stable? We don’t know. The passage from Luke only says that Mary laid him in a manger. The traditional spot of Jesus’ birth is in a cave. It could also have been in a room for animals in a house, an attached “stable”.
Was Jesus born in 0 AD? No, there was no zero at the time the Anno Domini system was set up in 525 AD. So there is no 0 AD. 1 AD was when Jesus was supposed to have been born, but scholars today place Jesus’ birth at 6 BC to 4 BC. This is based on Luke 2:2.
Was Jesus born on December 25? There is no date given for the birth. Some scholars think some time during Spring would be likely. Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on January 6.
What about the Magi, the Three Kings, or the Three Wise Men? The Magi were members of a priestly caste of ancient Persia. They are in Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:18 – 2:12). They are not necessarily kings or wise men.
Were there three Magi? The word Magi is plural suggesting more than one but the exact number is unknown. There were three gifts so tradition says three Magi. Note the Syriac Church tradition (and some other Eastern churches) has the number of Magi at 12.
Did the Magi and the shepherds appear together at the manager? Unknown. The shepherds hunted for a manger with a baby. The Magi followed the star to a house. To me it is likely that the Magi came later. King Herod would kill all the boys in Bethlehem, who were 2 years of age and under after the Magi failed to report back to him (Matthew 2:13-18). My guess is that Jesus was under 2 years of age when Herod slaughtered the boys of Bethlehem. He could have been about a year old, but again his age then is unknown. (Mary and Joseph may have decided that it was a good idea to stay in Bethlehem with the locals treating them well because they were the parents of the Messiah.)
Why was Jesus born? Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). We are broken selfish people. Because of Jesus, we can have a restored relationship with God. Jesus paid the price on the cross for our wrongdoing and wrong thinking. He is our Savior. I believe my life is much better because of Jesus. If you recognize that you are a broken selfish person in need of God, turn to Jesus, receive his love, and place your trust in him. He will deliver you from your brokenness and set you on a path of life found only in him.
Many more entries can be added to this FAQ, but this is a good start. Read the two accounts of the birth of Jesus. See what is there and what traditions have been added to the accounts.
2 thoughts on “Merry Christmas”
I believe this article describes the Jewish lawyer who, using off-the-shelf “Starry Night astronomy computer program along with an article written by astronomer Craig Chester; based in part on the work of Ernest Martin. Larson also used details from the Christian Bible to find nine data points about the Star of Bethlehem which, according to the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, stopped over Bethlehem, bringing the Magi to Jesus.“
The core of this article is this (with reference links and numbers removed):
“As a lawyer, Larson examined the text of Matthew, finding nine pieces of evidence in the nativity passage. The Star’s nine data points are that it signified birth, it signified kingship, it was related to the Jewish nation, and it “rose in the East”; it was not known to Herod the Great; it appeared at a specific time; it endured over time; it was before the Magi as they traveled south to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and then, according to the Bible, it stopped over the city of Bethlehem.
Using astronomy software to return to the skies over Judea by using Johannes Kepler’s math to calculate positions of celestial objects, Larson thinks he found all nine elements found in the book of Matthew. He also believes that the Star of Bethlehem phenomenon was induced via the rendezvous of Jupiter and Regulus as it was observed over Bethlehem during its triple conjunction on December 25, 2 BC. Larson believes King Herod the Great died in 1 BC, although almost all other experts, including astronomer David Hughes and astronomer Michael Molnar, believe Herod died in 4 BC. (In Molnar’s book, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi, he documents Jesus’ birth as Saturday [Sabbath] April 17, 6 BC due to a triple conjunction in Aries). This is concurred by the Biblical scholar Colin R. Nicholl, who disagrees with the Martin-Larson hypothesis, and presents his views in his book The Great Christ Comet.
The Star of Bethlehem suggests the Star stood over Bethlehem in its retrograde motion. As earth overtakes other planets as it orbits, they appear to loop backwards. The planet Mars here shows this looping motion.
Once Larson found what he thinks is the time of Jesus Christ’s birth, he looked for signs appearing in the heavens at possible times that fit the Passover, and believes the date of the Christ’s (Messiah’s) crucifixion was April 3, 33 AD on the Gregorian calendar. He also thinks he found astronomical phenomena related to a vision in the Book of Revelation.”
I saw this documentary some years ago and thought it was very interesting. If these dates are correct, Dec. 25th actually was the night of Jesus’s birth and not just a superimposition of Christian observances on top of pagan winter solstice rituals, and that Jesus’s human body was a little over 34 years old at the time of his crucifixion.