Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural
and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world
have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both
religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as
the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ; the Son
of God; the Savior of the world. The original meaning of Christmas came
by-way-of a special church service, or mass, to celebrate the birth of
Christ, "Christ Mass." The story of the Nativity, that is, the events
surrounding the birth of Jesus, are the central focal point of the
church's celebration of Christmas. The Bible does not give a precise
date for the birth of Jesus. Historically, it is
also unclear when December 25th became associated with the birth of
Jesus. However, the idea of turning this day into a celebration was
accepted by the church in the early Middle Ages in Europe.
During Reformation and up until the middle of the 1800s, Christmas was often not celebrated because partying and making merry was seen as unchristian. However, from about 1840, celebrating Christmas became more widespread. Finally, on June 26, 1870, December 25th was declared a federal holiday in the United States. Since then Christmas Day has become a steadily more important holiday. In the United States, Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, where old customs were unearthed as they looked to the church to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving. Although most American families quickly bought into the idea that they were celebrating Christmas the way it had been done for centuries, they had really re-invented a holiday to fill the cultural needs of a growing nation.
Today in America, there are many who reject the true meaning and purpose of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, and yet the holiday season itself tends to be filled with a kindness that most people exhibit which is not expressed in any other time throughout the year. This includes the holiday's of other world religions as well as all other sectors of public life throughout the world. I believe the reason behind this, is directly tied to why Christmas itself is celebrated, "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:8-14)
There is a peace, that for most is unexplainable, but for believers it is due to the first advent, the incarnation of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Even the events that led up to the birth of Christ had a major impact upon the civilization of that time. For instance, Luke's gospel records, "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:1-7)
To fulfill the Word of the Lord spoken by the Prophet Micah, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2) the heathen Emperor Caesar Augustus ordered that all should be registered to his own city, which caused Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem where Christ was born. We also notice, "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12) The announcement of the birth of Christ was proclaimed to shepherds keeping watch over their flock by an angel of the Lord.
After this announcement was made, we see, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:13-14) Scripture does not mention the number of angels present, but a word search reveals much. The Greek word for host refers to “the heavenly bodies, stars of heaven.” Heavenly host in the Hebrew means "armies." The heavenly host present at Jesus’ birth were so numerous they were compared to the stars and armies. We see that both the heavens and the earth were greatly moved by the birth of Christ.
During the Christmas season, let us be mindful that hearts are prepared to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ like no other time of the year. So, in the midst of the hustle and bustle that we may find ourselves in, let us be mindful of these very important facts, For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:16-17) "God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4) "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) So, let us start a new tradition. Let us share the gospel with at least one person during the Christmas season. Let us introduce people to "Christ the Lord." Have a very Merry Christmas...