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Blog Category: Christmas (6 posts)
Luke J. Wilson | 19th December 2019 |
For most people, the question of the origins of Christmas is probably far from their minds. Some may recognise and give a cursory glance towards the Biblical narrative on the birth of Jesus as something to do with it (although a 2017 study showed that almost 1 in 20 Brits thought Easter was the birth of Jesus!);—but in some Christian circles the question (accusation?) that “Christmas is pagan” is at the forefront of their minds.
Table of Contents
When was December 25th celebrated?
The Christian Calendar
Further Reading & Sources:
As time goes on and we move further and further into the future, away from the initial events of the first Nativity, the festival of Christmas has morphed into something altogether different than how the first Christians recognised and celebrated it (if they even did).
We know from historical records and study now that a lot of what has been incorporated into the festivities surrounding Christmas does have pagan origins, but does that make the holiday itself still pagan today? Are you inadvertently worshipping “the birthday of the Unconquered Sun” (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) when you celebrate on the 25th of December?
Let’s trace a little bit of history and see how the early church viewed these festivals, as they were still happening in full force whilst the Church was still young and were a contemporary concern, and what date they pinned the birth of Christ on to.
Much of the earliest references to the Nativity occur in a passing way as a commentary on the event rather than anything celebratory about it. Justin Martyr in his First Apology (~160 AD) mentions that Jesus was born 150 years before him, in the time of Quirinius (or Cyrenius as some translations have it – cf. Luke 2:2), where his readers could “ascertain also from the registers” the accuracy of his statement. Tertullian (197 AD) also references this census as a place where “Mary is described”, in which New Testament scholar W. M. ...
Luke J. Wilson | 22nd December 2018 |
In the days leading up to Christmas, I wanted to share a sermon from a man known as Leo the Great (aka Pope Leo I), who was a Pope from 440-61 AD. He was one of the most significant and important men in Christian antiquity, as he tried to combat the heresies which seriously threatened church unity in the West, such as Pelagianism. This sermon of his about the incarnation of Christ and what it means for us has always stuck with me since I first read it last April when writing my own book on the Early Church Fathers.
It's not that long, so take the time to read it through and let the words sink in as we prepare for Christmas to remember and celebrate the birth of our Saviour and Lord, Christ Jesus.
On the Feast of the Nativity, I.
I. All share in the joy of Christmas
Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered. And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all...
Luke J. Wilson | 17th December 2018 |
It's that magical time of year when the lights go up, the trees get decorated and a familiar bearded man in a red suit pops up everywhere.
He goes by a few names: Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nick.
But who was the real Santa Claus?
Well, to answer that, we need to go way back in history to the fourth century to a Bishop called Nicholas of Myra (present-day Demre, Turkey).
Memes abound about St Nicholas and Arius
Some early lists place him as one of the Bishops who attended the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, and there are some questionable legends which states that he was temporarily defrocked (a removal from office) and imprisoned during the Council for apparently slapping the heretic Arius across the face!
The following is an excerpt from a book called The Book of the Saints, which details some of the main aspects we know about St. Nicholas’ life and the miracles attributed to him:
ST. NICHOLAS was born into a wealthy family at Patara, Lycia, Asia Minor. He was imprisoned during the persecution of Diocletian, attended the Council of Nicaea, and died at Myra, where he was buried in the cathedral. Nicholas was chosen Bishop of Myra and devoted himself to helping the poor.
Tradition says that Nicholas devoted himself to works of charity. Hearing that an impoverished father had to sell his three daughters into prostitution because he had no money for their marriage dowry, Nicholas threw a small bag of gold into the poor man's window on three different evenings, and his daughters were able to marry. Finally, he was discovered as the bearer of these gifts.
At one time, he saved three innocent young men from execution by the powerful civil governor, Eustathius. At another time he came to the aid of seamen who called for his help during a storm at sea off the coast of Lycia. Suddenly appearing on their ship, he manned the ropes and sails beside the weary sailors and brought the vessel to port. Another tale relates that during a famine in hi...
Luke J. Wilson | 24th December 2017 |
It's that time of year again when certain groups of people like to share memes and videos that apparently "prove" Jesus to be a carbon-copy of ancient Egyptian gods.
This has been debunked so many times, yet it's still so pervasive on social media, mindlessly shared over and over again. This myth about Jesus being a copy of other pagan "dying-and-rising gods" doesn't have its roots in Egyptian legend, but rather in the claims of a film called Zeitgeist.
A quick search online will bring up many websites which have gone through the claims of this film with a fine tooth comb, and debunked each one. Here's one such example, which lists out the major claims and gives a detailed response to each: Analysis and Response to Zeitgeist Video.
To quote a pertinent part of the above website, Dr. Norman Geisler, a Christian systematic theologian and philosopher, gives a good response to the major claims against the resurrection:
Dr. Norman Geisler, author or coauthor of more than 80 books, writes, “The first real parallel of a dying and rising god does not appear until A.D. 150, more than a hundred years after the origin of Christianity. So if there was any influence of one on the other, it was the influence of the historical event of the New Testament [resurrection] on mythology, not the reverse.
If you don't want to read a long essay of the subject though, this video by Inspiring Philosophy breaks it down nicely in just under 5 minutes:
Other myths debunked
If not Osiris, Jesus is often claimed to be copied from the Egyptian god Horus... or the Roman god Mithras. Apparently everyone just copied whoever came before them, and hoped no one would notice!
All of these claims are equally as nonsensical as the others, and have "facts" which are completely fabricated to push an agenda of causing Christianity disrepute. But if you look into the actual myths of these ancient gods, you will see that none of them have any resemblance to Jesus or the New Testament.
Luke J. Wilson | 19th December 2016 |
I had been thinking about what to write this coming Christmas time, when I came across this quote the other day. I thought it sufficient enough, rather than go into a long theological treatise! So without further ado, here is a quote/excerpt by David H. Petersen, author of God With Us:
“The Savior is born unto you in Bethlehem, the house of bread, on earth. It is no coincidence that He lacked a crib and was placed instead into a feeding trough. He was born unto you to be bread: bread for beasts, bread for wolves, and bread for sheep. He comes in His body to feed you into life, to slake your thirst, to satisfy your soul. He is put into a manger, not only because He is rejected by men and there is no room for Him in Bethlehem’s inns but also because He gives Himself to you, as food, on earth.”
“We do not put a statue of a baby in the manger because we think that Jesus is still in the manger. We put a statue in the manger to remember that Jesus was a baby, that He took up our flesh and our burden. An empty manger just won’t do. The fact that God has a body, was born of a woman, for us, is not a tiny detail in the story or somehow not the important part. It is the essence of the story. In the same way, we do not put a statue of Jesus on the cross because we think that He is not risen. We know and we rejoice that He is risen. But an empty cross just won’t do. The fact that He was crucified in His body is not just a detail or somehow the prelude to the more significant event. It is the essence of the story. We preach Christ crucified.”
God With Us book cover
It also just occurred to me whilst I was writing this, that the Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread — the literal meaning of Bethlehem!
I never saw the connection before.
Also, as a final note, here's an interesting article on the prophetic fulfilment of Bethlehem too, for your spiritual nourishment: Bethlehem: House of Bread. Enjoy!
Jesus said to them,...
Luke J. Wilson | 25th December 2015 |
I saw a beautifully sung a capella song the other day of Facebook. It was about the Nativity, the incarnation of Christ. One of the lines in the song really struck me, the profound nature of what God did summed up in a single sentence:
Glorify, with the angels and the shepherds, Him who by His own will has become a newborn child, yet is our God before all ages.
Let that sink in for a moment before reading this excerpt from one of John Chrysostom's sermons on Christmas (something else I saw shared on Facebook which I think sums up this day in better words than I could muster):
"What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infant's bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.
For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ‘in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in h...