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The flowers are springing up,
the season of singing birds
has come;
Song of Solomon 2v12

Christmas - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Contents :

Where's the Nativity story in the Bible?

The Biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ can be found in:
Matthew 1:18 - 2:23
Luke 1:5 - 2:39
  

What does the word "Christmas" mean?

The word Christmas comes from the words "Cristes maesse" literally "Christ's mass", later shortened to "Christmas". Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus for members of the Christian religion. Most historians peg the first celebration of Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D.
  

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

Christmas is the celebration, on December 25, of the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem, over 2000 years ago. Christians believe that in this event God entered into human form, an event referred to as the Incarnation.
  

Is December 25 the day Jesus was born?

The Bible says nothing about the calendar day or year of the Nativity, but does refer to historical personages and events, such as the reign of King Herod. As a result no one knows what day Jesus was born, or even exactly what year.

Christmas was not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth.

What is known is the first mention of the birthday is from the year 354, Christian leaders in 336 A.D. set the date to December 25 in an attempt to eclipse a popular pagan holiday in Rome (Saturnalia) that celebrated the Winter Solstice. By instituting Christmas at this time, the Church hoped to keep people from participating in the pagan rituals of the winter solstice. In the fifth century the western church (Roman Catholic) ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol."

(The Western Church, based in Rome, chose December 25 to celebrate as Christmas. The Eastern Church chose January 6. The day was named Epiphany, meaning "appearance." Eventually the period from December 25 to January 6 became known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.)

Note: is it not better that the world think especially about God's unspeakable Gift on a specific day than on no day at all?
  

What Year was Jesus Born?

The Gospels indicate neither the month nor the day on which Christ was born. Although Luke places the birth in a historical perspective, even the year cannot be determined with exactitude.

Christ's birth almost certainly did not occur between 1BC and 1AD. Our present chronology by which the years are numbered as AD or BC was conceived by the Roman abbot Dionysius Exiguus around 523 AD.

Unfortunately, Dionysius made two significant errors in his calculations:
  1. His placement of 1 AD immediately following 1 BC, completely disregarding the mathematically required 0 in between. Back then in Europe, zero was not considered a number. So, for instance, the year we now call 3 BC, is actually 2 numerically speaking.
  2. Dionysius accepted the statement of Clement of Alexandria that Jesus was born in the 28th year of the reign of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. But Dionysius failed to realise that during the first four years of his reign this Roman ruler was known by his original name Octavianus, until the Roman senate proclaimed him "Augustus." So here alone we have an error of four years, but by the time it was realised our chronology was too well entrenched to be changed.
The most likely year that Jesus was born, is 6BC, probably in the month of March.
  

"Christmas" is it in the Bible?

There are no references to Christmas in the Bible because the first Christmas celebration did not occur until about 250 years after the last book of the Bible was written.
  

How was Christmas celebrated originally?

Originally, the celebration of Christmas involved a simple mass, but over time Christmas has replaced a number of other holidays in many other countries, and a large number of traditions have been absorbed into the celebration in the process.

During the 1600's some Puritan groups considered Christmas a pagan celebration because it included non-religious elements such as decorating and feasting. As a result Christmas was outlawed for a time, , between 1649 and 1660 through the so-called Blue Laws, in England and parts of the English colonies in America.

It is now both a religious and secular holiday, and is traditionally a celebration of family and children
  

Does 'Xmas' leave Christ out of Christmas?

Xmas has been used for hundreds of years in religious writing, where the X is understood to represent a Greek chi, the first letter of CrstoV, "Christ"; in this use it is parallel to other forms like Xtian, "Christian." But the letter X, or especially x, is nowadays more frequently interpreted as a mathematical variable than as a Greek letter, as indicated by the common pronunciation of the form Xmas as ( ). Thus, while the word is etymologically innocent of the charge that it omits Christ from Christmas, it is now generally understood only as an informal shortening
The Microsoft Bookshelf dictionary
  

What is Advent?

It is a period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30th - St. Andrew's Day. Advent marks the beginning of the church calendar, the turning over of the liturgy to the starting point of a new church year. Advent is from the Latin "adventus" meaning "coming," as in the coming of Christ's birthday.

Popular traditions are Advent Candles and Advent Calendars (often colourful children's calendars with a door for each day in December).
  

What is Epiphany?

Liturgical feast celebrated usually on January 6, commemorating the visitation of the Magi ( kings ) to Jesus after His birth in Bethlehem, also called "The Adoration of the Magi" or "The Manifestation of God."

From the Greek [epiphaneia] meaning "to show," and by implication, an appearance or revealing. It is when something becomes clear in a way not known before. It is used to illustrate a sudden manifestation of the essence of divine revelation. A discovery of God in some before unexpected or unknown way. When Jesus Christ was visited by the Magi and His divinity was revealed to the world, this was an epiphany.
  

What are Magi?

(The term majoi in Greek refers to a wide variety of people, including fortune tellers, priestly augurs, magicians, and astrologers; Latin: from plural of magnus "wise men")

Specifically the wise men from the East who brought gifts to the infant Jesus. We read of the story of the Magi and the events surrounding this time in the book of Luke Chapter 2. Because there was three gifts, tradition states there was 3 Wise Men.

The gifts offered:
  • Gold - as the emblem of royalty
  • Frankincense - in token of divinity
  • Myrrh - in prophetic allusion to the persecution unto death that awaited him
  

Why a Star?

The astronomical/astrological phenomenon that triggered the journey of the Magi to find and give presents to the Christ child, Jesus. Perhaps a supernova, a conjunction of planets, or a miracle which occurred around 7 BC, the most probably birth year of Christ. Often placed at the top of the Christmas tree.
  

What is Nativity?

Having to do with birth/being born; more specifically, the birth of Jesus .... God's son in Christianity. Christians believe that Jesus's birth fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. The Nativity of Jesus is celebrated in Christian communities as Christmas.
  

Was Jesus born in a stable?

There is actually no reference in the Bible to Jesus being born in a stable.

The Biblical story of the birth of Jesus is found primarily in Luke 2. The Biblical account mentions neither barn nor cave - it is assumed because of the manger. (Mangers are animal feeding troughs, and barns are where one would expect to find them.)

But in the ancient world, as well as in primitive modern cultures, mangers are also found within the house itself.
  

Were there Three Wise Men?

There is actually no reference in the Bible to there being 'three' wisemen.

In the well known worldly translations of the story of the three wisemen. It is possible that the number 'three' was chosen because there were three gifts. However, there is no indication as to how many Magi there were in Scripture.
  

Was Jesus' birth prophesised?

Prophesies about the birth of Jesus go all the way back to Genesis. Here are some of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled:

Prophecies   Fulfilment
and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Gen 3:15
Would be the "Offspring of a woman"
but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law Gal 4:4
seeing that Abraham had surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? Gen 18:18
Promised offspring of Abraham
Ye are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Acts 3:25 (Mt 1:1, Lk 3:34)
And God said, Nay, but Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him. Gen 17:19
Promised offspring of Isaac
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren; Mt 1:2
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: There shall come forth a star out of Jacob, And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, And shall smite through the corners of Moab, And break down all the sons of tumult. Num 24:17
Promised offspring of Jacob
the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, Lk 3:34
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the rulerís staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh come: And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be. Gen 49:10
Will descend from the tribe of Judah
the son of Amminadab, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, Lk 3:33
Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this. Isa 9:7
The Heir to the throne of David
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Mt 1:1
But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. Mic 5:2
Place of birth
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise-men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Mt 2:1 (Lk 2:4-7)
Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. Dan 9:25
Time of birth
Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Lk 2:1-2
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isa 7:14
Born of a virgin
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Mt 1:18
Thus saith Jehovah: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuseth to be comforted for her children, because they are not. Jer 31:15
Slaughter of infants
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the Wise-men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had exactly learned of the Wise-men. Mt 2:16
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. Hos 11:1
Escape to Egypt
And he arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt; Mt 2:14

Jesus Himself could not have controlled how these prophecies were fulfilled. No one can control the circumstances of His own birth, who his ancestors are and where he is born. Yet the prophets had written these remarkable details in advance over 1,500 years earlier.