What do you know about Christmas?
What Christmas customs have you observed - at Duke, in Durham, in the USA, in your home place?
Christmas is an international holiday in that people from many societies set apart the occasion in one way or another. In the Western Church Christmas is observed on December 25th annually, whereas in the Easter Church and on a slightly different calendar it comes on January 6th. (Did you realize that it is highly unlikely that the birth of Jesus occurred in December, more likely in the Spring instead?)
Essentially, Christmas (Christ-mass) commemorates the birth of Jesus (the Christ or Messiah) whose life, death and resurrection identify him as the unique (the Christian conviction) representative of the living God. Jesus’ influence remains universally compelling nearly twenty-one centuries after his birth. In fact, the Biblical record indicates that Jesus Christ is the key to knowing God and living authentically!
Though Jesus gave no instructions about remembering his birth, by the fourth or fifth century (A.D.) his followers had developed a routine for doing so. The original celebrations may have resembled other unrelated festivities current at that time. The uses of evergreens and light in Christmas rituals, for example, probably had been transferred from those other festivals.
During the centuries since then other customs have been added to the Christmas ceremonies, including those that are observed in many North American communities. These customs now include: exchange of greeting cards and gifts, carol singing, gaily decorated evergreen trees, candle lighting, end-of-year parties, specially prepared foods and sweets, holiday parades, and musical performances or pageants in local churches that feature the Jesus’ unusual birth and life, “Handel’s Messiah”.
So you see the customs have become a bit mixed up. Whose birthday is it, anyway? Interestingly, many observe Christmas, though they do not identify as believers or followers of Christ! As a result many Christian believers seek to create meaningful alternatives to the materialistic emphasis to the occasion.
Being a Guest
What is the “dress code”?
How many can you guess correctly? True or False?
Sample reading from the Bible about events leading to the birth of Jesus:
… God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Read for yourself in the Bible, Gospel of Luke, chapters 1-2.
Answers to above:
1- False 2- False, Santa is a myth 3- False 4- True. “Christmas” is a religious/Christian worship service that celebrates the birth of Jesus (the Christ). 5- True 6- True 7- True 8- False, in December it is summer in Australia 9- False on every account! 10- What do you think and why?