by Andrew Consiglio - Leader and Director of Youth Fellowship
Was Jesus really born on the 25th December?
No he wasn’t. The date was in fact a pagan feast which celebrated the return of the ‘dying sun’ at the end of December. From then on, the days would become longer. In about 354AD the Bishop of Rome wanted the Christians to celebrate it in commemoration of the birth of Jesus, the true ‘sun of righteousness’ (Mal 4:2). Jesus in fact was probably born in spring.
As for us, we must make sure that we do not celebrate Christmas as a ‘pagan feast’ again for
the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
What is the meaning of Bethlehem?
Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the hometown of Joseph, had been clearly prophesied in the Old Testament:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
In Hebrew Bethlehem means the ‘house of Bread’, a very fitting name for the birthplace of Jesus, the Bread of life. From our part it is therefore important to remember the importance of the Eucharist:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Why did God choose Shepherds to spread the good news of Jesus’ birth?
Shepherds were considered to belong to the lowest class of society, uneducated and untrustworthy. In fact they were not even allowed to give testimony in a court of law. The Word of God however tells us:
God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
(1 Cor. 1:27)
What God looks for is an open and humble heart. So let us humble ourselves before God and welcome Him into our lives:
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
Who were the three kings?
The Scripture does not tell us there were three kings but we know that magi from the east followed the star to Bethlehem and offered Jesus three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. These guys must have been astrologers from Persia and came to be seen ‘kings’ because of Old Testament prophesies such as the following:
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn … And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord
The Bible however highlights the reality of two very different kings: King Herod and King Jesus. The brutal King Herod epitomises the kingdom where sin, self and selfishness rules with all the terrible consequences. Jesus, the Son of God, ushers in the Kingdom of God in his very Person. He is the King who saves us:
(He) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves
What was the secret of Mary and Joseph’s life?
We read the story of the nativity and forget that there was a great cost for both Mary and Joseph to accept God’s plans. After all they had it all sorted out: marriage, settle at home, children and so on. Instead the child came before marriage conceived by the Holy Spirit (try and explain that to your parents), they became refugees in Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous intentions (no honeymoon cruise) and they had the great responsibility of bringing up the Son of God himself (fancy teaching God about God). What was their secret? A simple disposition of trust and faith in their heart which translated itself in an open ‘yes’ to God:
May it be to me as you have said.
From our part:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Why do we call Jesus ‘Emmanuel’?
We read: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23)
In the literal sense the prophet Isaiah had said these words with reference to a certain King called Hezekiah who rescued ancient Israel from a lot of harm; in the spiritual and prophetic sense however, it referred to Jesus. It is just like a perfectly loving God to wanted to be Emmanuel which means ‘God With Us’. We cannot bridge the gap between the finite and the Infinite – we need Emmanuel! How amazing, how awesome:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
From our part, let us pray daily: Come Lord Jesus, Come Holy Spirit.
What if I am sometimes afraid?
If you read the passages relating to the birth of Jesus carefully you will find one recurrent phrase: Don’t be afraid.
The angel Gabriel to Mary:
Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
The angel to the shepherds:
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born for you.
The angel to Joseph:
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
We are called to follow Jesus and to trust Him who loves us with such intense love that He came amongst us to live and die for us. The power of His resurrection gives us new life. If we have heaven in our hearts now, we have the hope of going to heaven for all eternity when our lives here on earth come to an end. So let us never allow ourselves to let fear overtake us or to get discouraged, especially in Jubilee Year of Mercy
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?