“…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Christmas is just over a week away. Most who hear the word “Christmas” know we are talking about the birth of Jesus Christ. But what does the word mean and how did the date of December 25th take hold?
"Christmas" is a compound word "Christ's Mass". It is derived from the Middle English Cristemasse, a phrase first recorded in 1038 followed by the word Cristes-messe in 1131. Crīst is from Greek Khrīstos (Χριστός), a translation of Hebrew Māšîaḥ (מָשִׁיחַ), "Messiah", meaning "anointed";and mæsse is from Latin missa, the celebration of the Eucharist. So what we have in the word “Christmas” is basically the “Anointed One’s Eucharist.” Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One and we come together often on Christmas Eve to celebrate the Eucharist, (Holy Communion) as the body of Christ. The scriptures instruct us to proclaim His death until He comes again. So in the Christmas Eve Communion Service we both proclaim His birth and remember His death announcing the Christ Child will come again!
How was it decided that December 25th was to be used as the birth date of Christ, if in fact we do not know the exact date? For the first couple of centuries the church did not celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Some of the early church fathers, notably Origen, argued against celebrating the birthdays of saints and martyrs including Jesus. They reasoned that we should celebrate on the day of their martyrdom. Many even considered celebrating birthdays was a pagan ritual since many pagan cultures of the time had this practice. By the second century the birthday of Jesus Christ was forgotten by the evidence of many dates being put forth at the time by the church.
Exactly when the church settled on the date of December 25th is not known. The first recorded reference to that date as the day of Christ’s birth is found in the writings of Sextus Julius Africanus early in the third century. The earliest evidence of the church celebrating Christmas on December 25 comes from the fourth-century manuscript known as the Chronography or Calendar of 354. According to that document Christmas was being celebrated on December 25 by the church at Rome no later than A.D. 336. That date was gradually adopted by the church as a whole over the next several centuries. (Some Historical data gleaned from John MacArthur’s NT Commentary on Luke)
Christmas, December 25, 2014 is coming and again we will celebrate the birth of a Savior which is Christ the LORD. Here’s the deal! It’s not about the date of December 25th, though that gives us a fixed point, or about the term “Christmas.” This celebration is about the Christ Child, Jesus, Messiah. This day of worship is about celebrating that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” On this date of December 25th we celebrate that Father God fulfilled His promise of the promised Messiah to a lost sinful world. This is why we celebrate. “For I was lost and now am found and was blind, but now I see.” Christmas is about Him, the most marvelous wonderful gift ever given, a Savior. All else is but a pale comparison. Join us at HOPE Church on December 24th at 5 PM as we gather for Christ’s Mass - the Anointed One’s Eucharist, celebrating His birth!
Merry Christmas friends, Pastor Marty