Christmas Was Different Once Upon A Time

Christmas was very different at its beginning.

336 Years went by before it was officially celebrated during the Emperor Constantine’s reign. In the early church martyrdom and the way people died was more significant to remember than birth. When the Roman calendar (Julian) was changed to the Gregorian Calendar in 1752 eleven days were lost (in September of that year the date jumped from 2nd to 14th). Christmas Day moved from what became January 7th to what we now know. Christmas trees only appeared in Germany in the 16th Century (perhaps originating with Martin Luther) and were accepted in North America in the late 18th Century.  Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) became popular in North America in the early 1800’s.

Christmas was very different when Jesus was born.

God’s gift of himself to the world was so ‘out of the ordinary’ that it took decades of years to unwrap, comprehend and appreciate. Like gifting an oak tree by sending an acorn. Hardly anyone knew or realized what was happening, and those that were involved had no way of knowing the impact and significance. Mary and Joseph had supernatural encounters to reassure them of Mary’s divine pregnancy. But how they explained themselves to their parents and friends and even one another, God alone knows. Their engagement and marriage plans were in disarray, their dreams for a shared future significantly impacted.

Mothers who shared Mary’s neighborhood and were pregnant with her look back on that first Christmas with broken hearts and grief. Those who joyfully gave birth to sons buried them within the year after a jealous Herod ordered their innocent babies to be slaughtered (peace on earth? God is working?). While a few shepherds rejoiced and Wise men brought gifts the religious establishment closed ranks with Herod to protect their status quo.

Jesus was born into a hostile environment, infant mortality was high, his parents were anonymous and poor, and within weeks of his birth his family was forced to flee in secrecy and exile. The very people God created, giving them love, freedom and opportunity, had plunged so deep into self-centered darkness that left to themselves they’d have snuffed out the ‘light of the world’. But God so loved……

If you want to be encouraged over Christmas don’t gaze upon a fat bearded man on a chimney, or a tree with tinsel, or even loads of gifts to be unwrapped. Those ‘modern’ Christmas fixtures say more about us then about God. Instead look way back to the stable in Bethlehem and consider how God works tenderly and fiercely among us, through us, and often despite us, to accomplish His purposes. And then allow Him to speak into your own life and circumstances in the light of those foundational hallmarks of the first Christmas. Here are some:

God’s ways of working are very different from ours so don’t scratch your head so much….. Know the person of Jesus and the process will unfold…

He is willing to disturb our plans – sometimes. And he’ll speak to us if we’re open (dreams, other people, timing, something we read or hear, a sense etc.).

We still must work out awkward details when God is in our midst (Mary and Joseph explaining a pregnancy without sex to their parents).

We seldom understand what He’s doing at the time; seldom obvious, one-dimensional, or clear cut.

Sometimes nothing about our circumstances assure us that He’s in control (like Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt with Jesus amidst death and chaos) – But Faith declares He is!

Patiently believe for the fulfillment of promises….. usually takes more time that we desire

Trust in God’s love and faithfulness to you… as His much loved child….. live one day at a time from that place of acceptance, favor, and anticipation

John Cox

Christian Author

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