Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
The interesting thing is this ties the word Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Christ with the practice Christ instituted as remembrance of His death and resurrection. Without that death and resurrection there would be no reason to celebrate the birth.
Of course, this birth wasn't always celebrated. To do so was once considered irreverent for such celebrations were done for Pagan Gods. Before 273 when December 25 was settled upon, there were a number of speculations on the date. One theory put it as March 21 because it was believed that was the date when God created the Sun. I imagine the actual date varied because it was accepted the Sun had been created on the fourth day, which was Wednesday and I imagine then Christ had to be born on a Wednesday. Well, maybe, after all Christ has been called "the Man of Sorrows" and "Wednesday's Child is full of woe". But nobody really knows the actual date.
So why December 25? Well, Constantine kind of made it the official date when he gave Christianity most favored religion status and created the Holy Roman Empire in 336, but the date had become traditional as far back as 273. It was chosen as an easy transition for Pagan converts who already had big celebrations on that date. December 25 was natalis solis invicti. You can almost figure that out. Nativity or birth of the solis (sun) invicti (victorious or something similar). It actually translates as "birth of the unconquered sun". Okay, because we Christians are celebrating the birth of the real unconquered Son.
Another celebration that was popular with the Roman Soldiers also occurred on that date. This was the birthday of an Iranian god, Mithras, Sun of Righteousness". Lot of worship of the sun in those days. people also had big festivals to the winter solstice around the same time of year. (You might view this as a predecessor to the modern religion of Global Warming.) At any rate, we took a lot of the trappings of this holiday from ancient Pagan celebrations: "gift-giving and merrymaking from Roman Saturnalia; greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year; Yule logs and various foods from Teutonic feasts" (sources: www.orlutheran.com, www.christianitytoday.com, www.scrollpublishing.com, Wikipedia).
Personally, I feel December 25 would have been closer to the conception than the birth of Jesus. Why? The major events surrounding Jesus generally correspond to the Jewish holidays. His death was at Passover, the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, etc. I believe His birth may have corresponded to one of the fall feasts, Yon Kippur perhaps. We also know shepherds were in the fields around Bethlehem at the time and that would be odd for December, but not in September. By October, however, shepherds would be bringing their sheep out of the fields into more protective environs before winter set in.
Jesus was six months younger than his cousin, John the Baptist. I believe there is good reason to think John was born around Passover, "the Elijah who is expected each Passover". If Passover fell in March of that year, then Jesus would have been born in September. Counting back nine months would have put the conception in December.
Anyway, Here are some things you need to know if you read my next twelve posts:
Your servant for Christ, Larry
Illustration: "Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds" by Govert Teunisz Flinck, 1639