Category Archives: Christmas Topic/Theme

The Day Even Non-Believers Honor Jesus Despite Themselves

It’s Christmas, hailed in at least one secular song as “the most wonderful time of the year!”  This is a Christian holiday.  But why do so many non-Christians celebrate it?

Nine out of ten Americans celebrate Christmas.  (And the 10% who don’t includes strict Christians who reject the holidays in the liturgical calendar on principle.)

Around three-quarters of Hindus and Buddhists in America celebrate Christmas, as do a third of Jews and a significant but undetermined number of Muslims. Even 87% of atheists, agnostics, and other “nones” celebrate Christmas!

Today 55% of Americans say they consider Christmas as a religious holiday, with the rest considering it only a “cultural” holiday.

Many observers conclude that the Christian meaning of Christmas is declining, so that December 25 is or is fast becoming a purely secular holiday.

But is that possible?

Read more

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How to Teach the True Meaning of Christmas to Your Kids

The rear seating in our 2004 Yukon must have some kind of magnetic field that provokes good questions from kids. This week it was, “Why do we decorate trees at Christmas? What does that have to do with Jesus being born?” I don’t remember asking such sophisticated questions at age 7.

But at age 37, I have an answer. I told our precocious progeny, “Not everything we do to celebrate Christmas has to be Christian, as long as we keep Christ at the center of our celebration. Some of what we do can be merely cultural.”

But I remember there being a respectable, gracious military family in my church in high school who gave a different answer: Decorated evergreen trees have nothing to do with Christ, they said. Christmas is a pagan holiday, and we won’t celebrate it.

I’ve heard this argument go back and forth over the years. Christmas was stolen from the pagans; or no, it’s been stolen from the Christians. I predict that both arguments will enjoy a long life on social media (if “life” is what you call something on social media).

But I think there’s a better view: Christmas means what we mean by it.

If I have concerns about the celebration of Christmas, it’s what we modern Westerners (my intended audience in this article) have done with it. Not all of it is bad, but some of it is. If I want to teach my kids discernment, I’ve got to make some distinctions among the various things people mean by Christmas.

Christmas means what we mean by it

It’s helpful to view cultural artifacts such as holidays through linguistic lenses. Just as words don’t always mean what they used to mean (take, for example, a charged word like gay or a prosaic one like prevent), holidays can and do grow away from their origins. And just as a dictionary’s job is to tell us what gay and prevent mean today, not what they meant in 1899, a theologian’s job is to observe what Christmas has become, not necessarily to tell us what it was.

That’s because a theologian is supposed to apply the unchanging truth of Scripture to the changing world of circumstances.

So let me give this a shot: what do I think we Westerners mean by Christmas nowadays?

Three Christmases

I follow the analysis of a respected teacher of mine who distinguishes three holidays: the commercial Christmas, the cultural one, and the Christian one.

Commercial Christmas

The commercial Christmas is about buying stuff, which isn’t necessarily wrong: I surely hope people will take advantage of my own company’s Christmas sales, because I believe our product is truly good for people and for the church. And we’re not the only company on the planet selling good things worth having. Hey, I’ve got a wishlist; and I’m excited about the things I’ve purchased for my own family.

But of course the Bible warns about greed, and a faithful student of Scripture has to apply that command to commercial Christmas. A man’s life doesn’t consist in the size of his storage units. Christians therefore ought to have a wary relationship with commercial Christmas. It’s a very powerful force.

Cultural Christmas

As is cultural Christmas. Christmas trees, candy canes, stockings hung by the chimney with care, family visits, poinsettias, green and red, holly berries, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, bowls full of jelly—the symbols of cultural Christmas are numerous, and they’re ubiquitous. I am literally surrounded by them as I write.

What does it all mean? In other words, what do people mean by these symbols of cultural Christmas? I think Westerners, Americans in particular, mean nostalgia. The iconography and customs of this second Christmas are “cultural liturgies” whose job is to connect people to the past in an otherwise unstable world.

I think such things can be harmless and even beneficial fun—and the great majority of Christians seem to agree with me. There aren’t a lot of holdouts from cultural Christmas, and there haven’t been for a long time. Traditions bind cultures together, and in this fractious era that’s not so bad. Plus, the Christian symbols that are used in cultural Christmas—manger scenes, say, and Christmas carols—are evidences of God’s common grace preserving a testimony to his Son in an unbelieving world.

Christian Christmas

The commercial and cultural Christmases can be viewed through Christian lenses and practiced with Christian faithfulness (it’s a good thing to buy gifts for others; it’s a good thing to enjoy one’s benign cultural traditions). These two Christmases don’t have to run counter to the third. But neither are they doing much to help it.

Only Christians will and should be interested in promoting Christian Christmas. The Bible doesn’t tell us to turn Christ’s birth into a holiday, but it is one, and we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to form our own Christian cultural liturgies.

Now, we haven’t missed it. We have beautiful carols celebrating Christ’s birth (many of them performed and even written by  unbelievers—what a world we live in), we have Christmas plays and cantatas at church, we have readings of Luke 2 on Christmas Eve.

I wonder if one of the healthy things we can do to preserve and promote this third and most important Christmas among our kids is simply to carefully distinguish it from the others. Let our kids know that there are three different celebrations going on at the same time, with some overlaps and some tensions among the three. This is not strange: it will always be the case when multiple people celebrate the same occasion. Point at a given symbol and quiz your kids; make them do some analysis: which of the three Christmases is that?

I think they’ll quickly pick up on the distinctions and start shouting them out every time you pass a different Christmas symbol while driving down the road. There’s cultural Christmas, Dad!

Conclusion

Your kids will pick up on not just what you say but what you love. It takes the grace of God for even adults to love Christ more than swag, to be more thankful for the incarnation than for a new gadget. God has given grace to our culture by preserving Christmas as a holiday; surely he will give believers even more grace at this time of year.


Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a Logos Pro. His most recent book is Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible (forthcoming, Lexham Press).

The post How to Teach the True Meaning of Christmas to Your Kids appeared first on LogosTalk.

Christmas Full of Grace and Truth: Big Theological Issues Show Up in New Report (Albert Mohler Blog)

Major media across the country have given a great deal of attention to a recent research report that comes from the Pew Research Center. The headline from the Pew website is this,

“Americans Say Religious Aspects of Christmas Are Declining in Public Life: Shrinking majority believe biblical account of birth of Jesus depicts actual events.”

Well, let’s just look at that for a moment. Those two separate parts of the headline really aren’t speaking to the same reality at all. Which is the bigger story? Well, the New York Times declares what it sees as important when it ran an article by Liam Stack with the headline, “Most Decline to Choose Sides in ‘War on Christmas.’”

Stack reported, “Combatants in the annual ‘War on Christmas’ have some new data to chew on, thanks to a survey released this week by the Pew Research Center. While many doubt that Christmas is embattled, as some conservative pundits contend.” He concluded: “The new study does suggest American attitudes are changing.”

Both sides in our cultural conflict have made too much at times and at other times too little of the war on Christmas. There really has been a secularist attempt to try to sideline, redefine, and marginalize Christmas. But there’ve also been some amongst conservative Christians who’ve tried to make too much of the war on Christmas, replacing matters of mere etiquette for what should be a serious discussion of theology. As The New York Times sees the news, the big story from this report from Pew has to do with the fact that there is a decline in social conflict over Christmas — or at least how most Americans seem to perceive such a “war,” but it also tells us that a fewer number of Americans are actually celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday. Now that sounds like a more interesting part of the report, and indeed it is. It tells us that over the course of the last several years Americans have decreasingly defined Christmas in terms of their own personal and family celebrations as a religious event, and that may be one reason why those on the secular side believe there’s less reason for a controversy over Christmas. If Christmas is secularized, secular people are certainly less threatened or offended by it.

To be sure, there are still arguments over whether or not nativity scenes should be allowed on public property, and there are at least some skirmishes over the kinds of holiday greetings that may be used by clerks in stores or even by corporations and advertising. But the bigger story here, from a Christian perspective, is certainly what was in the subhead of the headline from the Pew Research Center.  It was this: “Shrinking majority believe biblical account of birth of Jesus depicts actual events.”

In the words of the Pew report,

“Among the topics probed by the new survey, one of the most striking changes in recent years involves the share of Americans who say they believe the birth of Jesus occurred as depicted in the Bible. Today, 66 percent say they believe Jesus was born to a virgin, down from 73 percent in 2014. Likewise, 68 percent of U.S. adults now say they believe that the wise men were guided by a star and brought gifts for baby Jesus, down from 75 percent. And, there are similar declines in the shares of Americans who believe that Jesus’ birth was heralded by an angel of the Lord and that Jesus was laid in a manger as an infant.”

The final statistic,

“Overall, 57 percent of Americans now believe in all four of these elements of the Christmas story, down from 65 percent in 2014.”

Interestingly, from several decades ago I remember what would be called a parlor game at Christmas parties, prominent among evangelical Christians, in which there were a series of true or false questions about the Christmas story. What was often revealed in the game is that many Christians knew things that simply aren’t in the Bible and didn’t know truths that are. For example, the Bible doesn’t tell us how many of the magi (the wise men) came from the east to find Jesus, but the New Testament certainly tells us that they did. Biblical Christians will certainly be interested in this report, and in that number that was given that 57 percent of Americans now believe in all four of the elements of the Christmas story that were asked about the research. By the way all four of them clearly revealed in Scripture, let me just remind you, (1.) that Jesus was born of a virgin; (2.) that the angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds; (3.) that the wise men, or the Magi, brought Jesus gifts; and (4.) that Jesus, once born, was laid in a manger. Now as any Christian would understand, those are four very familiar truth claims in terms of the Christmas story.

A further look at the data from Pew means that this study is actually even more interesting. For example, the slippage when it comes to decreasing belief in the historicity or the facticity of these events from the life of Jesus revealed in Scripture, is found primarily in just one religious cohort. Who would that be? Well to no surprise, mainline liberal Protestants.

How does that line up? Well in 2014, 83 percent of those identified as mainline liberal Protestants said that they believed in at least all four of those crucial aspects of the birth of Christ, but in 2017, remember that just three years, only 71 percent. That’s a fall off of 12 percent in just three years in terms of the number of mainline Protestant saying that they believed in the truthfulness of all four of those aspects of the birth of Jesus revealed in the Gospels. Among evangelical Protestants, the figure in 2014 was 96, and 2017 95; that’s a 1 percent shift that isn’t statistically important, but what is important is that 12 percent loss amongst mainline liberal Protestants. But there’s also another divide revealed in this story, and it turns out that it is a partisan divide. Pew asked respondents to the survey if they identified as Republican or Democrat, huge change there. In 2017, 81 percent of Republicans said they affirmed all four of those truth claims concerning the birth of Christ but only 58 percent of Democrats said the same; that’s a huge difference between 81 percent and 58 percent. But from a Christian perspective, given our concerns about Christmas and our responsibility to tell the Christmas story right, what does this survey tell us? Well it tells us that a significant number of Americans, including some who clearly identify as Christians, don’t have an adequate belief in and confidence in some of the most basic truths and facts about the birth of Christ. Now, why would that be the case? Well, in this case it’s probably not excusable by ignorance. If you’re talking about other biblical truths it just might be that there are some Christians who have never adequately understood them, but when it comes to these core truth claims it’s hard to make that argument. The Christmas story is told over and over and over again, so this represents an explicit denial of very clear biblical truths. Here, Christians have to remember that the Christian faith stands or falls on space and time in history. The claim, very clearly presented in Scripture, that the events that are recorded there and revealed concerning Jesus, not only his birth but the entirety of all the truth claims made about Christ in the New Testament and furthermore the entirety of all the truth claims made in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, all of these are essential to the Christian faith, and when it comes to the facts concerning the birth of Christ not one of them is expendable, every one of them is essential.

Writing back in the year 1930, the great Protestant theologian J. Gresham Machen reminded us that even then there were those who were arguing that you could believe in Jesus without the facts concerning his birth and his life. Machen argued in his great book, The Virgin Birth of Christ, that there were those who claim to be Christians and yet argue that the historical truths concerning the birth of Christ are expendable. One can gain inspiration from the moral example of Jesus and claim to be Christian, they argue, while jettisoning the biblical truths concerning the birth of Christ. Machen responded by saying that whatever the religion left after such denials may be, it isn’t Christianity. Whatever it is, it doesn’t save sinners from their sin. So make what you will of that partisan divide, the most important revelation in this story is a theological divide, and that theological divide is mislabeled by Pew. We can understand why Pew would use the language they use, but if you’re talking about people who deny the basic truths concerning Jesus, you’re not talking about people who are rightly described as Christians. Theologically, whatever they are, they are adherents of a different religion.

But as Christians celebrate Christmas, and as we watch others doing the same, we must remind ourselves that we are only saved because the Word indeed became flesh and dwelt among us, and  because we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And if Jesus was not born of a virgin, then his birth has to be explained in some other way, and whatever way that is, it’s going to be in direct contradiction to the Scripture. Christians celebrate the glory of Christmas because we understand the glory of Christ. If you deny anything revealed of Christ in the New Testament, you are robbing him of his glory, and you are creating a new religion that will eventually preach a different gospel.

So, celebrate a Christian Christmas, filled with the glory–and the truth–of the incarnation. Merry Christmas.

___________________
This is an edited transcript from the Friday, December 15, 2017 edition of The Briefing.

The post Christmas Full of Grace and Truth: Big Theological Issues Show Up in New Report appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.

Advent Week 4: How to talk about peace at Christmas (Video)

Christmas can be one of the busiest times of the year.

But we often don’t think about how Mary herself felt, during that first Christmas when she was giving birth and had nowhere to go.

Rather than worry and stress about things large or small, do as Mary did, and look to God for peace within.

Week 4: PEACE

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV)


Please feel free to click the video image above, or go to this link to play this week’s video as we end our yearly advent journey and seek our own peace.

Why Did Jesus Come? The Reason for Christmas

What is Christmas all about? Obviously it has to do with the arrival of Jesus Christ on planet earth. But why did he actually come? Just why was he born? What led him to leave the comforts of heaven to appear in the flesh on this dark and dreary earth?

If you are a church pastor, minister, priest or leader, one of your most important jobs is to teach your flocks about who Jesus is and why he came. So it is especially appropriate at the Christmas season to ask again why it is the Incarnation took place. Why did Jesus visit this planet, and what did he seek to do while here?

We know of course there are plenty of wrong and reckless answers to these questions. Most non-Christians and many liberal believers will offer all sorts of patently false reasons, such as:

-He came to be an example for us
-He came to bring world peace
-He came to be a moral teacher
-He came to show us how to be nice to each other
-He came to spread peace and joy
-He came to tell us how to be good
-He came to promote social justice
-He came so we could all get along
-He came so we could find inner peace and personal fulfilment
-He came so that we might be happy
-He came so that we could get rich

All these answers are certainly NOT what the Bible says concerning the reason for Christ’s coming. Sure, some of these things may be secondary results or fruit of the real reasons he came. But no one reading the New Testament could come away with those rather pathetic reasons.

Why did Jesus come?

Scripture makes it quite clear as to why he came, and the whole of Scripture speaks to this in one way or another. But one way to get a handle on this is to list those passages that tell us exactly why he came. We can just let Jesus and the Bible speak on this.

Here then are some very direct and unequivocal verses on this matter. They are either the very words of Jesus, or the words of others about Jesus.

He came to offer truth and light
John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 18:37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’.

He came to deal with our sins
Matt 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
1 Tim. 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
1 John 3:5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.

He came to defeat the devil
1 John 3:8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

He came to preach the good news
Luke 4:43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

This last heading pretty much summarises the other three. The gospel is the good news, and the good news involves all the truth that God has revealed to us, including the unpleasant truth that we must hear the bad news before we can get the good news. And the bad news – as shown in some of the passages above – is that we are all sinners.

We are all alienated from God, under his wrath, and heading to a lost eternity. So the primary reason Jesus came is because we are sinners, and that condition means we are in a very bad place indeed. Indeed, we are fully subject to the devil and his wiles, so that is another part of the coming of Christ – to defeat Satan and his works.

Thus when Jesus speaks about spreading light and truth, it is not some vague, undefined feel-good light and truth, but a very specific variety. The darkness of sin, death and the devil is overcome by the light and truth of Christ and what he did on the cross. And that involves other specifics as well: we must appropriate what Christ has done.

Faith and repentance is the biblical response to the work and message of Christ. It does us no good just to hear about what Christ did for us, but then to think that is all there is. No, we must respond to what Christ said and did. Otherwise it is just a nice story.

I recall one Christmas when we were away from home, so we went to a local church. It was a somewhat liberal and non-evangelical church. The minister actually shared in a half-way decent fashion some of the gospel truths concerning the Christmas message.

But then that was it. Instead of tying it all together and telling the congregation, “OK, in light of all this, how will you respond?,” he just sent everyone on their merry or not so merry way. He seemed to see no connection between the Scriptural points he had just shared, and the need for the people there – including us visiting strangers – to latch on to these truths and make them ours.

As I said above, of all people, Christian leaders must get Christmas right. They must have a clear grasp of just what the Bible has to say about the coming of Christ. If we get this wrong we will get everything else about Christianity wrong as well.

Corrie Ten Boom offers us a brief but powerful summary of what this is all about: “Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”

Merry Christmas.

Source: Why Did Jesus Come? The Reason for Christmas

The Lessons of Christmas: Incarnation, Not Enlightenment

Waiting. I have vivid childhood memories of Christmas Eves spent looking under the Christmas tree, curiously trying to figure out what was inside the carefully wrapped boxes. Was it the toy truck I couldn’t stop talking about? Was it the action figure I spotted at the department store that I just knew I “had” to have? Were my parents really listening to me when I passionately expressed my longings?

God’s Old Covenant people eagerly waited for a promised gift. Was God really listening to his people when they passionately expressed their longing for deliverance and redemption? During Christmas we celebrate the end of Israel’s waiting, and the arrival of Jesus Christ, the One whose appearing was so monumental that Western civilization has literally split its division of history around the perceived date of his birth.

Unfortunately, our commercializing culture has obscured the truest meaning of this holiday. Even Christians can be affected. Christmas is a season with deep theological implications. Beyond the joy of celebrating mere family get-togethers, the customary exchange of gifts, the delicious food, or even the vague sense of universal peace with all people based on little more than our common humanity–Christmas pushes further.

Christmas is radical. Christmas reminds us that our God gets his hands dirty. The infinite,personal God of the Bible isn’t a force. He punishes the wicked, but he also reconciles the lost. The invisible, immortal, intangible Word of God took on human flesh. By this in-fleshing, this incarnation, God the Son took on a new mode of existence marked by weakness, vulnerability, and mortality.”[1] Jesus did this, in the words of the Nicene Creed (325 AD), “For us and for our salvation.” The birth of Jesus is by far the greatest announcement humanity has ever received.

What Christmas Teaches us about Reality

Oneism, with its denial of the Creator-creature distinction, cannot be squared with the truth of Christmas. It leaves us forever waiting for a redemption that never finally arrives. Behind the holiday spectacles lie powerful Twoist truths. Embracing these truths moves us away from the cosmic confusion of Oneism, and plants us firmly on the unshakable ground of gospel truth. This is because the drama of Christmas addresses the root of our greatest problem, answers our greatest need, and presents the greatest news imaginable.

Lesson 1: Our Problem is Our Love of Sinful Affections, Not a Lack of Self-Awareness

Oneism appears in many forms, but they all insist that there is no true distinction between Creator and creature. Enlightenment is not given to us as a gift by from someone or something outside of ourselves. It comes from an awakening to our truest self, an awareness of the inner spark of the divine that runs through all people. Ignorance of self, not estrangement from God, is the great problem to be overcome, according to Oneism.

In sharp contrast, Twoism teaches us that our problem–the problem for which it was necessary for God himself to get involved–is our estrangement from the Creator due to our sin. The very essence of sin reveals the nature of reality. Theologian Millard J. Erickson summarizes biblical imagery for sin as including “missing the mark, irreligion, transgression, iniquity or lack of integrity, rebellion, treachery, perversion, and abomination.”[2] He likewise defines the essence of sin in terms of sensuality, selfishness, and the displacement of God.[3]

The root of human suffering is not ignorance of our inner divinity. When humanity embraced autonomy, the human and divine relationship was broken. War, injustice, racism, sexism, slavery, manipulation, theft, and sex trafficking are all expressions of the sinful, anti-God impulse. Having turned against our Creator, and therefore against one other–those made in the image of the Creator.  We are indeed estranged from ourselves, but not because we just haven’t realized that we are divine. We are estranged because we refuse to acknowledge our creaturehood (Rom. 1:21).

We cannot be our own Christmas heroes. The woes of the world are our own doing. The solution must come from somewhere else. and this brings us to our second Christmas lesson.

Lesson 2: Don’t Look Within, Look to Him

Christmas reveals our greatest need. As D. A. Carson said, if we had needed an economist, entertainer, politician, or doctor, God would have sent one of those to deliver us. Instead, God “perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.”[4]
We don’t need a shaman, a guru, or a yogi. We only do ourselves harm when we seek solutions to the world’s problem from the well of our own resources. We need a prophet to speak truth, a priest to take up our cause with God, and a king to defeat our enemies.

During Christmas we do not lift our gaze to the pinnacle of human spirituality with the hope of finally reaching enlightenment. Christmas is not about good advice. It is good news.

Christmas marks the launching of God’s kingdom and of God’s redemptive deathblow against the powers of sin, sickness, suffering, and Satan. During this time of year, we–like the shepherds of Luke’s Gospel–reflect on the glorious announcement of the arrival of Jesus Christ as king and redeemer. God has come in person. This gospel was the hope of God’s people surrounded by pagan Rome two thousand years ago, and remains the only hope of his people in the re-paganized west today.

So, though we continue to wait, we now wait in hope for the glorious return of the king.

[1] J. van Genderen and W. H. Velema,
Concise Reformed Dogmatics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 474.
[2] Millard J. Erickson,
Christian Theology, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 423.
[3] Erickson,
Christian Theology, 423.
[4] D.A. Carson,
A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992), 109.

The post The Lessons of Christmas: Incarnation, Not Enlightenment appeared first on TruthXchange.

9 Things You Should Know About Christmas Traditions

Christmas is the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world and one with a variety of long-practiced customs. Here are nine things you should know about Christmas traditions.

1. Christmas trees – The tradition of bringing an evergreen tree into the house to be decorated is traced to Germany in the 1500s. The earliest Christmas trees were referred to as “paradises,” after the “paradise trees” used as part of plays held on the feast of Adam and Eve. As Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait explain, these trees were often hung with round pastry wafers symbolizing the Eucharist, which developed into the cookie ornaments decorating German Christmas trees today.

2. Christmas lights — Legend has it that the German Reformer Martin Luther was not only the first person to bring a Christmas tree into the house (not true), he was also the first to decorate it with lights (also probably not true). The story is that when Luther was walking home on a winter night he was overcome by the beauty of a fir tree and the stars shining around it. Unable to communicate the majestic scene to his family, he is said to have brought a tree into his home and decorated it with candle tapers to mimic the stars. This is claimed to be the basis for adding lights to modern Christmas trees. (While it’s an intriguing tale, there is no historical evidence it actually happened.)

3. Candy canes — Folklore says that candy canes for Christmas originated in Germany in 1670. A choirmaster of a cathedral in Cologne gave out candy during worship service to keep the kids quiet. He is said to have asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick to represent the shepherds who visited baby Jesus. The oft-told story that a Christian candymaker in Indiana made the candy cane to incorporate several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ is an urban legend.

4. Christmas cards — The commercial Christmas card originated in London in 1843 when Sir Henry Cole, too busy to write letters, asked an artist friend to design a card with an image and brief greeting that he could mail instead. The artist, John Callcott Horsley, printed 1,000 cards and sold them at Felix Summerly’s Treasure House in London for a shilling each. Americans imported Christmas cards from England until 1875, when a German immigrant named Louis Prang, “the father of the American Christmas card,” created the first line of commercial Christmas cards in the States.

5. Christmas stockings — In the famous poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (1823)—the one that begins “Twas the night before Christmas”—stockings are mentioned while a Christmas tree is not. This is fitting since, throughout the 1800s, stockings were often more symbolic of the holiday than were Christmas trees. An article in The New York Times in December 1883 noted, “The stocking was for so many years so closely associated with Christmas that Christmas without stockings seemed inappropriately and insufficiently celebrated.” In contrast, the article says, “The German Christmas tree—a rootless and lifeless corpse—was never worthy of the day.” While no one knows how the tradition of hanging stockings truly arose, a popular legend is that Santa Claus heard about an impoverished family too proud to take charity. The father, recently widowed, was unable to provide a dowry for his three daughters, so Santa tossed three gold coins down the chimney that landed in the girls’ stockings hanging on the fireplace to dry. (Another version of the story says Santa gave three gold balls, which is where adding oranges or tangerines supposedly comes from.)

6. Eggnog — Eggnog is a drink that contains milk, cream, sugar, whipped eggs, some sort of an alcohol (brandy, cognac, rum, sherry, whiskey), and sometimes spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. Historians of food believe that it originated from the early medieval Britain “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink. Because of the readily available supply of milk and eggs in American colonies, eggnog became a popular holiday drink.

7. Christmas carols — Since the 14th century, carols have been considered a form of popular religious song. While Christmas carols had begun to become popular after the Reformation, they became a particularly common genre in the 19th century with the publication of music books dedicated to Christmas songs. For example, in 1833 an English lawyer named William Sandys published Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, which contained the first appearance in print of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” “The First Noel,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Also during the Victorian era in England, the tradition of visiting people’s houses and singing—a process known as wassailing—was adopted for Christmas and became synonymous with “caroling.”

8. Advent calendars — In Middle Ages the Advent season became directly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas. Today, Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas, though most Advent calendars start on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas. The tradition of Advent calendars is believed to have started in the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. The first printed Advent calendar was produced in the early 1900s by a German named Gerald Lang. When Lang was a child his mother sewed 24 cookies onto the lid of a box and allowed him to eat one of them every day during the Advent period. Lang used this as the model for his own Advent calendar in 1908.

9. Christmas presents – In this short video, Ryan Reeves explains the history of gift-giving on Christmas.

Source: 9 Things You Should Know About Christmas Traditions

5 Popular Misconceptions About the Christmas Story

“Another staple of modern nativity plays is the scene at the inn. Joseph and his wife, Mary—who is on the verge of giving birth—are cruelly turned away by the innkeeper who shows them no compassion. Here is another popular misconception. The Bible never mentions an innkeeper. In fact, it’s possible there was never even an inn at all.”

We experience the story of Jesus’s birth in a variety of ways throughout the Christmas season. The story is presented through nativity scenes, TV shows, story books, paintings, and Christmas pageants.

In fact, we encounter the Christmas story so often we’re convinced we know all the details of what happened that night. But many of the things we think we “know” about the Christmas story turn out to be incorrect.

Here are five common misconceptions.

1. There Was a Star the Night Jesus Was Born

It’s difficult to find a nativity scene (or Christmas play) without a star over the manger. Indeed, this might be the quintessential symbol of the birth of Jesus.

The problem is there’s no indication the star hovered over the manger on the night Jesus was born. On the contrary, when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds watching their flocks by night (Luke 2:8–11), they weren’t told to look for a star. They were told to look for something else: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

The star was given not to the shepherds but to the Magi (Matt. 2:2), who appear to be visiting Jesus at a later time period. How much later is unclear, but the fact that Herod commands all the babies in the region younger than 2 years old to be killed suggests Jesus may have been in Bethlehem for some time.

2. There Were Three Wise Men

Speaking of the wise men, in both art and in song (“We Three Kings”) we get the undeniable impression there were three of them (also called “Magi”). The problem, however, is that this number is found nowhere in the biblical accounts.

Matthew simply tells us, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (Matt. 2:1).

The idea of three wise men likely came from the fact that Matthew mentions three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).

3. There Was No Room for Them in the Inn

Another staple of modern nativity plays is the scene at the inn. Joseph and his wife, Mary—who is on the verge of giving birth—are cruelly turned away by the innkeeper who shows them no compassion.

Here is another popular misconception. The Bible never mentions an innkeeper. In fact, it’s possible there was never even an “inn” at all.

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The post 5 Popular Misconceptions About the Christmas Story appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Questions and Answers about Christmas

GotQuestions.org

Should Christians celebrate Christmas?

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

How should Christians respond to the War on Christmas?

Do some Christmas traditions have pagan origins?

Should we have a Christmas tree?

Does giving gifts take away from the true meaning of Christmas?

Why is the virgin birth so important?

Was Jesus born on December 25th?

Is Christmas related to Saturnalia?

Was Jesus actually born in September?

What does the Bible say about the three wise men?

What should parents tell their children about Santa Claus?

What is an advent calendar? How does an advent calendar relate to Christmas?

Should a Christian celebrate Hanukkah (Christmaskah)?

What is Epiphany / Three Kings’s Day and should Christians celebrate it?

What is Christmastide?

What was the star of Bethlehem?

Does Luke’s claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem at the time of Quirinius’ census match the historical record?

Why did the Magi bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus?

Is it wrong to say “Xmas” instead of “Christmas”?

What year was Jesus Christ born? When was Jesus born?

What is the origin of Christmas?

What is Kwanzaa? Should a Christian celebrate Kwanzaa?

What is a Christmas nativity?

Why was Jesus born in a manger?

What does it mean that baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes?

What is the meaning of Noel?

Where was Jesus born?

What is Advent?

What is the Annunciation?

What are holy days?

What are Chreasters?

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

Do the narratives of Jesus’ birth contradict each other?

Who/what is Krampus and what does it have to do with Christmas?

What is Yule, and what does it have to do with Christmas?

Christmas: Not the Beginning of Jesus’ Existence

A frequently heard phrase this time of year is the “birth of Jesus.” And that’s good. But, it’s possible to miscommunicate something essential about Christ. Typically, when we mention someone’s birth, we think of it as the beginning of the individual’s existence. Obviously conception marks the beginning of existence, but for convenience sake (and avoidance of some awkward conversations) we do not celebrate one’s conception day, but birthday. You get the idea. View article →

Source: Christmas: Not the Beginning of Jesus’ Existence

A Christmas REALITY – Mary Needed a Savior!

Just a thought this Christmas season. One of the greatest myths in all of Christendom is that Mary (Miriam) – the young Jewish girl of king David’s line – who gave birth to the Savior of the world was sinless. I myself was taught this as a boy in the Catholic church and it wasn’t till I was born again and started reading the Holy Scriptures for myself that I saw the true folly of such a myth. My dear friends, no greater lie could ever be told or fantasy ever believed! When this lie is embraced it derails the total ETERNAL movement of Almighty God and seeks to make the temporal, fallen and mortal the ETERNAL, RIGHTEOUS and DIVINE (Rom. 10:4). Mary herself testified that she rejoiced in Almighty God her Savior and one does not need a Savior if one is not a sinner (Rom. 3:23, 6:23, 10:2-4, Acts 4:12)! If we let the Holy Scriptures of Almighty God and Mary’s own personal testimony speak to us then this great fantasy of many can NEVER stand.
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Mary herself testified that she rejoiced in Almighty God her Savior and one does not need a Savior if one is not a sinner.
And Mary herself said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate (to look with pity on her vile condition) of his handmaiden (slave): for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation(St. Luke 1:45-49).
Also the Holy Scriptures tell us that Mary offered a burnt offering and a sin offering for an atonement after her purification (Leviticus 12:1-8). If Mary was not a fallen daughter fallen of Adam she would not have needed to offer an offering of sin.

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons (St. Luke 2:22-24).

My dear friends, if you are one who holds to the teaching of the Catholic church on Mary of Nazareth I would like to challenge you to believe Almighty God’s Word and receive the biblical position of Mary and that of salvation (John 1:12, Acts 16:28-30, Romans 6:23, 10:2-4, 1 John 5:13). Mary the young maiden – by faith – trusted in Almighty God for her ETERNAL salvation as a young girl before her angelic visitation and little did she know that she would be the vessel of Almighty God to bring forth the perfect body for her Lamb and propitiation of her soul (John 1:29, John 3:16-17, 36, Rom. 10:2-4, 1 John 2:2, 4:10).

Mary the young maiden – by faith – trusted in Almighty God for her ETERNAL salvation as a young girl before her angelic visitation and little did she know that she would be the vessel of Almighty God to bring forth the perfect body for her Lamb and propitiation of her soul.

The first Christmas two thousand years ago – the young Jewish girl of the tribe of Judea – Mary; was trying to comprehend and take in the wonders of the last nine months (Matt. 1, Luke 2:24-80). Mary was highly favored above all women and was given the Divine assignment to prepare the body for the ETERNAL Spirit of the Son of Almighty God (Isa. 9:6-7, Micah 5:2, John 1:12, Heb. 10). The true servants heart and faith of Mary is to be greatly commended and her exampled followed; but when individuals seek to change her testimony and her witness to fantastic fables they do her and her ETERNAL Savior a great disservice and dishonor.

Mary needed a Savior and believed as the Word of God clearly stated (Lev.). What about you? If Mary was her today she would point you to her God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Messiah to save your soul and give you ETERNAL LIFE (John 3:16-17). What will you do? Will you listen to Biblical Mary or traditional Mary?

The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

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