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by ProfDave, ©2020

(Dec. 21, 2020) — Over the centuries the celebration of Christmas has taken on a life of its own. It has become so much fun (and such big business in turn) that it is easy for even active Christians to forget what it is all about. Let alone those who haven’t read the Bible or attended church. 

If you are not a believer, would you like to know what it is all about?  Why do we celebrate Christmas and why does calling it Christmas offend some people?  Under the hood, so to speak, there is some often misunderstood celestial mechanics – what makes the largest world religion tick (and tick off the intolerant).

Just been listening to Gene Autry’s original “Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer.”  “You know Dancer and Prancer . . .” Rudolf and Frosty etc. – those are the ornaments on the wedding cake of Christmas.  Not even the frosting.  Oh, yes, Scrooge and the Grinch, too.  But that’s not what Christmas is about. 

Nor is it the merchandise, the packages, the ribbons, the wrappings – that would be Black Friday.  Those are not what Christmas is about.  Those are just the way we celebrate.  Those are the icing on the cake.  Just the commercialization. 

How about the giving, the love and the joy?  Now we’re getting down to the cake.  Certainly those are good things.  Those are what Christmas does to us – makes us compassionate, generous and loving.  But that’s not what Christmas is about.

Why December 25?  Why are we celebrating?  Actually, the Christian church 1500 years ago just more or less arbitrarily picked that date to celebrate – the birth of the founder of Christianity.  There are no birthdates in the Bible at all.  Jews didn’t celebrate their birthdays in those days.  In fact, according to Lee Strobel, second-century Christian scholars thought Jesus was born May 20!  It is critical that Jesus Christ was born, but historically Christians worked backwards from the Resurrection, so the date of Easter was a lot more important in the first centuries.

The elf-stories, the tinsel, the trappings, the sales and the packages, the gifts and the joy are just the effervescence of the celebration – the wedding cake.  The wedding – what the day was meant to celebrate – is the Incarnation of the Living God!  He Himself became one of us!  He lived with us so that we may live with Him!

Incarnation is just a theological word for the wedding of God and Man in a stable.  “The Word became flesh!”  It happened nine months earlier.  That, not the birthday, is the basis of the dividing line between AD and BC (or BCE and CE), calculated by Dionysius Exiguus in the sixth century.  Yes, he may have been off by as much as six years, but that was his intent. The fertilization of Mary’s ova without a human father is the “reason for the season!”  The manger was just the first mile-post – Jesus’ first glimpse through mortal eyes of what he’d gotten himself into.  I’ll bet you didn’t know that.

Down from His glory,
          Ever living story,
My God and Savior came
          And Jesus was His Name.
Born in a manger,
          To His own a stranger,
Seeking to win, to woo, to save my soul!

O how I love Him!
How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine,
         My all in all!
The great Creator
Became my Savior!
And now I know He is the great I AM!

David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College.  He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota.  He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020).  He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.

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