Much about Christmas remains veiled and puzzling.  It harbors a mystery of faith and has a rather checkered history.

   For more than 300 years after Jesus’ time, Christians celebrated his resurrection but not his birth.  The later Christmas festival was even banned in 17th century England and in early America.

   The observance first begin in fourth-century Rome, timed to coincide with a midwinter pagan festival honoring the imperial army’s sun god, Mithra.  The December date was taken over to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

   But on what day he was born is unknown.  Even the precise year is uncertain. However, it was not in the year 1 A.D., as the calendar’s Anno Domini (Year of the Lord) suggests.

   Its dating system derived from an error about the year of Christ’s birth by a sixth-century monk in Rome, Dionysius Exigus, in working out the starting point of the Christian era.

   Scholars since have calculated that Jesus’ birth came in about 6 or 7 B.C., meaning paradoxically “Before Christ”.  The revised time was determined partly by the fact that Herod the Great ruled Judea when Jesus was born and history records that Herod died in 4 B.C.

   In what month the birth occurred, or on what day, has been a matter of speculation for centuries.  Possible dates include:  January 6, February 2, March 25, April 19, May 20, October 4, November 17.

   A British physicist and astronomer, David Hughes, has calculated that the date was September 17, 7 B.C., based on various scientific evidence, including that of a conjunction of two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, in the constellation Pisces on that date.

   He concludes in a book that this extraordinary celestial display was the “star” seen by the distant wise men.

   The 17th century German astronomer, Johannes Kepler, similarly had calculated a three-planet conjunction, including Venus as well as Jupiter and Saturn, in the same constellation in 7 B.C.

   In any case, a variety of months and days have been used over the centuries in different parts of the world to celebrate the occasion. Some Eastern Orthodox churches still do it on January 6.

   Christmas was banned in 17th century England when Oliver Cromwell and his puritan followers gained temporary rule, forbidding what was called the “heathen celebration of Christmas.”

   The holiday similarly was banned in colonial New England. Christmas wasn’t made a legal holiday in Massachusetts until 1856.

   For all of the clouded chronology and legal background of Christmas, however, the biggest mystery is in its message — that God has entered the human race in love for it, on with it, and one of it.


   “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” the Bible says.

   That is the mystifying core of Christmas, an awesome concept that has challenged hearts and minds since.  It  holds that Jesus was truly human, sharing the nature of all people, yet also truly God. “Emmanuel — God with us,” Scripture says.  “The light of the world.”


See:  Matt 1:22-23; John 1:1, 14

          — The Biblical Illustrator



‘Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck…

 How to live in a world that’s politically correct?

 His workers no longer would answer to “Elves”.

 “Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves.

 And labor conditions at the north pole

 Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.


 Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,

 Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.

 And equal employment had made it quite clear

 That Santa had better not use just reindeer.

 So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,

 Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!


 The runners had been removed from his sleigh;

 The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.

 And people had started to call for the cops

 When they heard sled noises on their roof-tops.

 Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.

 His fur trimmed red suit was called “Unenlightened.”


 And to show you the strangeness of life’s ebbs and flows,

 Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose

 And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,

 Demanding millions in over-due compensation.


 So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,

 Who suddenly said she’d enough of this life,

 Joined a self-help group, packed, and left in a whiz,

 Demanding from now on her title was Ms.


 And as for the gifts, why, he’d ne’er had a notion

 That making a choice could cause so much commotion.

 Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,

 Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.

 Nothing that might be construed to pollute.

 Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.

 Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.

 Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.

 Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.

 Nothing that’s warlike or non-pacific.


 No candy or sweets…they were bad for the tooth.

 Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.

 And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,

 Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.

 For they raised the hackles of those psychological

 Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.

 No baseball, no football…someone could get hurt;

 Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.

 Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe;

 And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.


 So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;

 He just could not figure out what to do next.

 He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,

 But you’ve got to be careful with that word today.

 His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;

 Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.


 Something special was needed, a gift that he might

 Give to all without angering the left or the right.

 A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,

 Each group of people, every religion;

 Every ethnicity, every hue,

 Everyone, everywhere…even you.

 So here is that gift, it’s price beyond worth…

 “May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth.”