Is 9:1-6; Tit 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14
Joan Clifton Costner gave her own personal meaning to every letter of the word CHRISTMAS. She said that C is for the Christ child and the child in all of us; H is for the Heart of God, in who we place our trust; R is our Redeemer who is finished with His chore;I is for Isaiah who had told it all before; S is for Shepherd, lowly shepherds came to see; T is for Three wise men who were wise beyond degree; M is for a Manger, a simple manger where He lay; A is for bright Angels who were standing by that day; S is for the Star that shone and still shines out today.
Surely, all of you must share in my great joy of being a participant in this beautiful gathering of families, relatives, friends, neighbors and even unannounced visitors. Tonight, many have come to commemorate the incarnation of God on earth. All are here to celebrate the birthday of Baby Jesus, the Savior of the world and we call this celebration as Christmas.
Today’s gospel passage confirms that in the days of Emperor Augustus, Baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem to the Blessed Virgin Mary who was engaged to Joseph. Because there was no room in the inn, like the poor people of His days, Baby Jesus was born in a manger. In the environment, there were no hospital services available. There were no nurses and doctors. There were no white bed sheets. And there was no gathering of the biological family. Unlike ourselves, we are born to a decent hospital or place and maybe some of us were born in an air-conditioned room.
Christmas, originally, the Mass of Christ is a holyday of obligation in the liturgical calendar of the Church. According to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem where she and her husband Joseph had traveled to register in the Roman census. We believe that Jesus’ birth, fulfills God’s promise that a Messiah would come to redeem the world from sin and bridge the separation between God and humankind.
The word Christmas is a contraction of Christ’s Mass, derived from the Old English Cristes maesse and referring to the religious ceremony of the Mass. It is often abbreviated as Xmas, probably because X or Xt have often been used as a contraction for Christ. The English letter X resembles the Greek letter X (chi), the first letter of Christ in Greek and transliterated as Christos.
Historians when Christians first began are unsure exactly when Christians first celebrating the Nativity of Christ. At times it was forbidden by the Protestant church until after the 1800s, because of its original pagan rituals. Some scholars maintain that December 25 was only adopted in the 4th century as a Christian holiday after Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, to encourage a common religious festival for both Christians and pagans. Perusal of historical records indicates that the first mention of such a feast in Constantinople (Constantine’s own city, after all) was not until 379 AD, under Gregory Nazianzus. In Rome, it can only be confirmed as being mentioned in a document from approximately 350 AD but without any mention of sanction by Emperor Constantine.
Christmas is now celebrated on December 25 in Catholic, Protestant and some orthodox churches such as the Greek and Romanian Orthodox Churches. Some scholars suggest that December is a date of convenience chosen for other reasons, related to the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. December 25 in the Roman world was the Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, but it may not have been as early as Christmas. If it was a Roman reaction to the Church being persecuted then. It may have served as an attempt to eclipse a precious devotion of Christians, amidst attempts to kill all Christians off. Many of the earliest Christian writings were destroyed during those persecutions. But St. Hippolytus, who was already knowledgeably defending the faith in writing at the turn of the century, entering the 3rd century AD, said that Christ was born Wednesday, December 25, in the 42nd year of Augustus; reign.
But Christmas can be a confusing time for many of us. Often we have high hopes for the Christmas celebration but we find it very stressful. There are so many pressures rushing to buy gifts and their high cost, the stress of meeting relatives or the opposite – feeling all alone. So sadly, Christmas is a time when problems come into our lives: debt, worry, loneliness and many more.
Somehow, it seems that there is something wrong. There is such a big contrast between the way the world spends Christmas and the religious message which is almost forgotten.
How can we make sense of Christmas today? Let us ask God to forgive us for all that we have done wrong and that He would give us His power in our lives to change us. The Bible tells that God promises to those who follow Him, a spirit of love, power and a sound mind, not a spirit of fear.
If we ask forgiveness from God, then Christmas has now taken on a new meaning. There will be contentment and real joy in our hearts and there will be peace in our home. We no longer argue and fight. Difficulties still come but we know that Jesus is our friend and he is able to help us through with our problems. That is why Christmas with Christ is special.
See Today’s Readings: Year A, Year B, Year C