Thursday, December 24: Christmas Eve
Friday, December 25: Christmas Day
10:00 am Worship with Holy Communion
WHY DO WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?
Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th. In most countries with a Christian heritage, this date is held to be the most important holiday of the year. But have you ever considered why we do this?
The Bible tells us that on the night when Jesus was born, an angel appeared to humble shepherds in Bethlehem, announcing that:
“I am bringing you good news of great joy
That shall be for all people:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David
A Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord!”
And suddenly, a multitude of angels appeared in the night sky over them and said:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
And on earth peace, goodwill to all.”
We are also told that shortly after His birth, Magi, or Wise Men, came from the East and asked:
“Where is he who has been born
‘King of the Jews’?
For we have observed his star at its rising
And have come to pay him homage.”
And upon finding Him, they knelt down, paid him homage, and presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Although the story of Jesus’ birth has been known to Christians from the beginning, it seems that the Church only began to celebrate this event around the late 3rd/early 4th century. Of course, nobody knows the exact date of the birth, but December 25th was chosen to commemorate the day of His coming into our world. Every culture in the northern hemisphere has some kind of festival in the depth of winter, and the Church decided to mark the darkest time of the year by using it to proclaim the birth of the One who is the Light of the world and has come to bring healing and hope to all people.
Of all the holidays, Christmas is the one that comes with the highest expectations …
We have an image in our minds that this should be a time of unlimited joy, happiness, peace, love, and goodwill. This, of course, is not the reality we actually experience. We tend to selectively remember the best aspects of Christmases past and conflate them into a fantasy that in the “good old days”, every holiday was wonderful. By that standard, the Christmas we celebrate this year, no matter how good it is, will inevitably let us down. Unfortunately, some people find this time of year to be an occasion for sadness and regret over things past. The good news is that there are some things we can do to find the peace and hope that Christmas is meant to bring.
First, we need to set reasonable expectations for the holiday.
There seems to be so much pressure in our modern world to have everything in our lives to be “perfect”, whatever that means. Maybe this is the time to look realistically about what we can do at this season, to selectively choose those things that make Christmas a blessing for us and our loved ones, and also to have the courage to say “no” to the excess demands and pressures that get in the way of that. The best things about Christmas are being with family and friends, and of celebrating the birth of our Saviour – the rest is important, but secondary.
Secondly, it helps to remember that the first Christmas was not at all what we like to imagine it to be …
Jesus was born to a poor young family in a barnyard and placed in an animal feeding trough, or manger, because there was no other place for Him. The eternal Son of God came in poverty and utter humility, in order that He could identify with the poor and suffering of our world. He came to bring God’s light, peace, and hope to all who would trust in Him. That’s the greatest Christmas gift of all.
Finally, please join us for the beautiful and inspiring worship services this Advent and Christmas season at St. Alban’s!