Ah, Jared's Java. Pleasant taste. Slight Monsterism.

Welcome to the home of my mind, where I brew my intellectual and spiritual joe. Sit back and let me pour you a cup or two. I promise not to cut you off, even after you get the caffeine jitters.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas: Day 1

I am stealing this idea from my Sister, Kathy. She did a blog entry for each day of Advent, so I will do one every day from now until the end of Christmas.

Why Dec. 25th? Church settled on ‘Christ’s birth day’ centuries later
From: Catholic Online - http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=22329
The gospel accounts of the Nativity (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2) do not say what day Jesus was born. There were attempts to calculate the day, but by the third century Christians realized this was impossible.

So they tried other ways to determine a date for Jesus' birth:
- Many people believed the world was re-created on the first day of spring (March 25 of the Julian calendar followed in ancient Rome). How appropriate, then, for the world's redeemer to become incarnate that day!
- Other scholars argued that Jesus became incarnate not at his birth but at his conception. If Jesus was conceived March 25, he would be born nine months later, Dec. 25.
This date didn't catch on immediately, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean region where people believed Jesus was born Jan. 6. But in the West Dec. 25 had much appeal. Why?
Many Romans venerated the sun, whose birthday was Dec. 25, or a virility god named Mithra with the same birthday. Also, the Romans observed a raucous celebration called Saturnalia Dec. 17-23. Thus, Dec. 25 offered a date with a good theological basis that also would counter several pagan holidays.

Although we don't know the final steps, in 336 the church at Rome officially observed the "birth day of Christ" Dec. 25. This tradition spread. But what about Jan. 6? The church decided to use that day for Jesus' manifestation to the whole world, symbolized by the Magi.

The Magi were three kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar, right? Not really. Matthew's Gospel speaks only of Magi; it doesn't call them kings, or say they rode camels or give their names.
The early Christians looked to the Old Testament for prophecies relating to Jesus. One prophecy in Isaiah said that foreigners traveling on camels would bring gold and frankincense to the Messiah, while a psalm spoke of kings coming.

Naturally the Christians interpreted the Messiah as Jesus, and the only foreigners who brought him gifts were the Magi. So by the third century we find Christians speaking of the Magi as kings riding camels.

How many Magi were there?
A great Egyptian scholar, Origen, found a Genesis passage in which three pagans honored the Hebrew patriarch Isaac. Origen said the three symbolized the Magi, but didn't say why.
Names for the Magi do not appear until the sixth century; all are fictional. "Balthasar" may be a corruption of Belteshazzar, a Babylonian king in the Book of Daniel. "Melchior" may be a combination of two Hebrew words for "king" and "light." And "Caspar" may derive from the name of an Indian king converted by early Christians.

These names first appear in the West in a sixth-century mosaic in the church of St. Apollinaris Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.

The date for Christmas may have been settled by the fourth century, but legends of the Magi grew throughout the Middle Ages.

This article begs the question, again, does it really matter what day we celebrate the birth of Christ? I know some people in some sects, both Christian and cultic, don't celebrate Christmas because they insist it isn't the day that Jesus was born, so it wouldn't be right. That just seems like a ridiculous idea to me. Why, other than being a kill-joy, would you insist on that?

Well, I'm tagging everyone (and this means you Kathy, but you can copy and paste from your most recent blog entry) who reads this to share with me in my comments section what their favorite Christmas memory was from this year. I'll share mine tomorrow.

Merry Christmas!


michelle g said...

Oh, you touched on my Dad's big one... So here I am to offer a little bit of history for you as well.

I think we should make sure to note that the Magi were first talked about in the Bible as being shepherds in the field, who had angels appear to them. Kings did not watch sheep. (Except David, but that was before he was king.) Shepherds only stayed in the fields during lambing season... in the spring. Why couldn't Jesus' birthday be March 17 (random), or May 5 (my birthday), or April 15 (the dreaded Tax Day in America)?

As for choosing not to celebrate, you don't have to be a kill-joy. You could have other reasons. As Christians, we are told to celebrate the Death, Burial and Resurrection of the Christ on the first day of the week, and we do that in the Lord's Supper. We are not told to celebrate the birth. That may be why we are not given more specific star-sign details about the date.

True, if the Christ had not been born, he could not have died... and true, we celebrate our own birth, why not the birth of the Savior? Because the baby is not supposed to be our focus. The focus should be the Love powering the Sacrifice.

Instead of attacking the date (which is likely wrong), share the message of Jesus at this time of the year. It is the one day every year that the GOVERNMENT has allowed us to shut down our busy lives, and focus on, of all things!?!, GOD. Spread the Love.

Kathy Brown said...

Hi, Jared -
Actually my favorite Christmas memory this year was described on my advent day 23. My mom's birthday. To give her a present that she totally loves, when she least expected one from me, feels wonderful. I think she thought I had forgotten her in a way. My gift is so insignificant in the grand scheme, but so significant to her. I am grateful to God that he provided the means for me to be able to send her that.