(This blog will be on hiatus for a few weeks as my wife and I enjoy our honeymoon and some well-needed rest. The blog will resume it’s regular irregular course in January.)
The holiday season is full of rush-rush-rush. Hanukkah is long gone and now it’s Christmas Day already! I hope that you have a great one!
For most people that grew up in Christian households like mine, Christmas is THE holiday of the New Testament. In the popular mind, Christmas has long since eclipsed Easter as the most celebrated holiday. Although some commentators claim that there is a “War on Christmas” today, it is nothing compared to the war on Christmas that many Christians waged in the past to keep Easter’s place secure. The Puritan founders of New England, my home, even tried to ban the celebration of Christmas!
How did Christmas become dominant? It could be that it replaced various Roman and pagan rituals as the holiday of the Winter Solstice. I dare say most of our Christmas traditions from mistletoe to Christmas trees are non-Christian, even though there’s a Christian gloss on them now. But more likely it’s because Christmas is simply a more uplifting holiday. As important as Easter is to Christians, the birth of a man is more celebratory than his death, even if he does manage to come back later.
In the Bible (and this is a bible blog, remember?), Christmas has the distinction of appearing first in the New Testament, starting shortly after the genealogies in Matthew 1:18. This may seem like a natural placement, but it’s not: most scholars now believe that Mark was the first gospel to be written and Mark begins at Jesus’ baptism. In fact, unlike Easter and the other “important” events in Jesus’ life that is recounted in all four gospels, Christmas is only discussed in two of them: Matthew and Luke. And, except for the fact that Jesus is born in both of them, they are very different stories.
Remember the wise men? The adoring shepherds? The manger? Our modern Christmas story is a mixture of the TWO Christmas stories of the bible, with no two details (except Jesus being born) repeating in both of them.
The TWO stories of Christmas? Read more after the break.