What is Christmas?
Christmas - the dictionary.com explains: "(is) A Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus". This feast is celebrated on Dec 25th every year - remembering the Birth of Jesus - The long expected Messiah (dictionary.com explains Messiah as: One who is anticipated as, regarded as, or professes to be a savior or liberator).
What's so special about Jesus - why is He the center of the Christmas story?
The Christmas story in the Bible begins earlier than you might expect - several hundred years earlier. One Old Testament prophecy after another promised a coming Savior - the Messiah, the Anointed One - who would redeem the people of God.
The centerpiece of all the Christmas prophecies, Isaiah 9:6 (For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace), was written by Isaiah nearly six hundred years before Jesus' birth. Writing under divine inspiration, Isaiah was able to see across the centuries and give us an amazingly accurate picture of the Savior's birth. He promised it would be a miraculous event, unlike any the world had ever known. The details Isaiah gave were fulfilled too precisely for the connection to be dismissed as chance.
Isaiah foretold, for example, that Jesus would be born to a virgin - a woman who had never been sexually intimate with any man. [That] was one of the most startling details of Isaiah's prophecy. Isaiah 7:14 says, "The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." That virgin's name was Mary.
The name Immanuel, however, is the key to this verse - and the heart of the Christmas story. It is a Hebrew name that means literally, "God with us." It is a promise of incarnate* deity, a prophecy that God Himself would appear as a human infant, Immanuel, "God with us." This baby who was to be born would be God Himself in human form.
If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: "God with us." We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!
Isaiah 9:6 is surely the most familiar of all the Old Testament prophecies about the birth of Christ. Handel included it as one of the great choruses of his Messiah oratorio. Chances are you hear it several times every Christmas season.
The Manger (a barn or a stable) - also known as the "nativity scene" - is the setting in which Jesus was born. The scene consists of
1. Baby Jesus,
2. Mary & Joseph (along with the animals that were present in the manger)
3. The shepherds (who heard the news about the birth of Jesus and came to worship Him)
4. The Magi (the three wise men from the east) - Biblical account states that these wise men came days after the birth of Jesus - hence they are not placed in the nativity scene -they are generally the part of the christmas story.
|Here's how the story goes:
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's hometown, for the census. As a decendant of David he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant.
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped Him in a blanket and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the hostel(inn).
There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises: "Glory to God in the heavenly heights; Peace to all men and women on earth who please Him."
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the shepherds were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The shepherds returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!
(Luke 2:1-20 - from the Holy Bible)
|The visit of the Magi
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."
After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
(Matthew 2 - from the Holy Bible)
|Where does Santa Claus fit in?
Santa Claus (also known as St. Nicholas; Kris Kringle; Father Christmas) is the North American and British variant of the European folk tale of Saint Nicholas, explaining the source of Christmas presents given to children on Christmas Day.
Some say St. Nicholas existed only in legend, without any reliable historical record. Legends usually do grow out of real, actual events, though they may be embellished to make more interesting stories.
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
However, the dramatic picturization of Santa Claus was done by Coca-cola - an cartoon adaption of the civil war cartoonist Thomas Nast - first published in the Harper's weekly in 1862. The Coca-coal Company used the Santa Claus in the 1920's and 1930's Ads - which marked the beginning of Santa Claus' appearance in the corporate world - extending now to today's Ads and Shopping Malls.
In reality, Santa Claus has nothing to do with the real Christmas Story - often Santa is used to depict "holiday" season - keeping the season "politically correct" - afterall, everyone likes the jolly old fat man with a long white beard dressed in the coca-cola's corporate colors.
Today, many postal services allow children to send letters to Santa Claus pleading their good behavior and requesting gifts; these letters may be answered by postal workers or other volunteers. (Canada Post has a special postal code for letters to Santa Claus: H0H 0H0.)
So in Conclusion: Christmas is about the Birth of Jesus Christ. Click here to read more about Jesus, His life and His claims - and what they mean to you.
Wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2006.
Resources for further study into this subject: