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Make-believe and celebrations: Christmas message ignored

By Spencer Gear - posted Monday, 24 December 2018


This is a delightful season for summer fruit from the tropics and temperate climes. I purchased a pawpaw that looked just right. I struck a problem when I opened it.

It wasn't seen from the outside, but around the stem, there was a small bad spot that had developed mould on some of the seeds inside. Once the bad section had been removed, the remainder of the pawpaw was delicious. I would never have written off the entire pawpaw because of some contaminated seeds.

But that's what some people want to do with Christmas. The season has been commercialised with festivities that disguise the true message of Christmas. Also, there are opponents of Christ who raise objections to Jesus' nativity events recorded in the New Testament (NT) Gospels.

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Paddling in the Christmas shallows

Let's clear away some debris. December 25 is not the date of Jesus' birth. There is no biblical mention of the exact day of his birth. A few hints in the texts indicate it was not in the middle of the northern winter. Shepherds were in the fields overnight guarding their flock (Luke 2:8). This suggests a time of more temperate weather.

There were discussions about the date of Jesus' birth by early church leader in northern Africa, Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215). He wrote: 'There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord's birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, and in the twenty-fifth day of [the Egyptian month of] Pachon'. This is 20 May according to our calendar (The Stromata1.21).

For the first 300 years of the church's existence, it did not celebrate Christmas. December 25 was adopted in AD 336 when Constantine was emperor. In 354 a list of Roman bishops was compiled. The words that appeared in 336 were, '25 Dec: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae', i.e. 25 December, Christ born in Bethlehem Judea.

Around that time there were pagan festivals honouring the Roman god of agriculture, liberation and time – Saturn. Mithra (Mithras) was worshipped by the Persians (Iran, Iraq and vicinity) as the god of light. Could this have been a tactical decision by a christianised Emperor, Constantine, to encourage people to consider the new faith of Christianity?

The Santa sham

I well remember the deceitful fun my parents had with us kids at Christmas with the gifts under the tree. The jolly old Santa was played by Dad as part of my family's tradition. We children knew no other way to celebrate Christmas. Now we know it's pretense, but who wants to spoil the fun for kids?

This legend has been traced back to the monk, St. Nicholas, born around AD 280 in Patara, modern Turkey. He was esteemed for his godliness and kindness. Many legends have sprung up around his story.

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As for the name, Santa Claus, it emerged from Nick's Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas. As for the chubby, bearded fellow in the red suit, those features originated in 1822 when Clement Clarke Moore, a USA Episcopal minister, wrote a lengthy poem for his three daughters, 'An account of a visit from St. Nicholas'.

He was cautious about publishing it because of its petty subject. However, that poem seems to have been responsible for the contemporary image of Santa – the tubby old man in red who could climb up a chimney (history.com).

This year, I visited a major department store in the Brisbane region to purchase a nativity scene for my house. When I asked the person at the front door for directions to the department where I would find such a scene, she naively responded: 'What do you mean?' She had no idea of the true meaning of Christmas and where a nativity scene fits into the picture. To her knowledge there was no such scene in this large store. She was correct.

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About the Author

Spencer Gear PhD is a retired counselling manager, independent researcher, Christian minister and freelance writer living in Brisbane Qld.

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