Mystery and History Collide on Christmas

Nativity God with Us Jesus Christby Regis Martin –
When we consider the Christmas Miracle, it is worth recalling the fact that Joseph does not at once repudiate his betrothed, despite his discovery that she is pregnant with another’s child. It is an astonishing development. How painfully bewildering it must have been for him, however, to try and account for a conception for which he was not at all responsible. Still, for all that Joseph is entitled to collect in the way of punitive damages, including death by stoning, he refuses to go that route, resolving instead “to divorce her quietly.”

At which point, of course, an angel of the Lord intervenes, advising Joseph in a dream not to heed the counsel of fear, nor to give way to the demands of justice, but to welcome Mary into his home. How so? Because the Child she bears is the Son of the living God. [Read more…]

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The Importance of Saying ‘Merry Christmas’

Importance of Saying Merry Christmas by Dennis Prager –
The nearly universal change from wishing fellow Americans “Merry Christmas” to wishing them “Happy Holidays” is a very significant development in American life.

Proponents of “Happy Holidays” argue that it’s no big deal at all, and that proponents of “Merry Christmas” are making a mountain out of a molehill, especially when proponents say that the substitution of “Happy Holidays” is part of a “war on Christianity.”

But the “Happy Holidays” advocates want it both ways. They dismiss opponents as hysterical while, at the same time, relentlessly pushing to rid America of “Merry Christmas.”

So, then, which is it? Is the substitution of “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” important or not?

The answer is obvious. It is very important. That’s why the anti “Merry Christmas” crowd has worked so hard to make this greeting a thing of the past. And they have been extraordinarily successful. [Read more…]

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The Twelve Days of Christmas in the Orthodox Tradition

Twelve Days of Christmas in the Orthodox Traditionby Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse –
In the Christian tradition of both east and west, the twelve days of Christmas refer to the period from Christmas Day to Theophany. The days leading up to Christmas were for preparation; a practice affirmed in the Orthodox tradition by the Christmas fast that runs from November 15 to Christmas day. The celebration of Christmas did not begin until the first of the twelve days.

As our culture became more commercialized, the period of celebration shifted from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. Christmas celebration increasingly conforms to the shopping cycle while the older tradition falls by the wayside. It’s an worrisome shift because as the tradition dims, the knowledge that the period of preparation imparted diminishes with it.

Our Orthodox traditions — from fasting cycles to worship –exist to teach us how to live in Christ. The traditions impart discipline. These disciplines are never an end in themselves but neither can life in Christ be sustained apart from them. [Read more…]

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Calculating Christmas Not Based on Pagan Festivals

Nativity Christmas Starby William J. Tighe –
Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance. [Read more…]

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This Christmas, Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

Christmas Nativity of Christ by John Jalsevac –
Christmas isn’t quite what it used to be, is it? And I’m not referring the usual laundry list of grievances that makes us religious fundamentalist extremists (i.e. Christians) seriously ponder setting up a utopian commune on a deserted Mediterranean island: the war on Christmas, the kitschy music, the consumerist madness, the widespread ignorance about even the most basic facts behind the feast.

Forget about all that for now. All I mean is, if you’re old enough to be reading this, somehow Christmas has lost much of the effortless magic with which it was surrounded years ago…in your childhood.

You know what I mean. As a child, it seemed so easy to get swept up into the rich mystery of Christmas: the presents, the smells, the music, the lights glistening on the snow, the tinsel on the tree, the strange guests, the parties, the good food. All these things spoke to you, and without thinking about it you gave yourself into the power of their enchantment. [Read more…]

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In Defense Of The Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Not Pagan, Christian Originby Fr. Daniel Daly –
Our Christmas tree is derived, not from the pagan yule tree, but from the paradise tree adorned with apples on December 24 in honor of Adam and Eve. The Christmas tree is completely biblical in origin.

Several years ago during the Christmas season, a religious program on television caught my attention. The program featured a discussion on the dangers of cults, especially to young people. I found myself agreeing with the panelists as they warned young people about the hazards of involvement in occult or “new age” spirituality.

During the interview, however, one participant made a statement that shocked me: “…and the Christmas tree is pagan too…,” he asserted. The Christmas Tree? Pagan? Could it be that something most of us enjoy so much might be actually pagan in origin? Despite its growing commercialization, the Christmas tree is still associated with the fondest memories of our early childhood. Who does not remember approaching the tree on Christmas morning? [Read more…]

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