Christmas and its meaning

Published on December 24, 2004

By Isaac L. Hmar

December 25, 2004: It may be noted that the modern Christmas was celebrated in Germany and the main program was a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve and a fir tree hung with apples (paradise tree) representing the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up a Paradise tree in their homes on 24 December, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. Nevertheless, December 25 is generally accepted as date of Christmas by all Christians all over the world, although there is no certain evidence or proof as the exact date of the birth of Jesus. The custom of celebrating Christmas on December 25 became widespread among the German Lutherans by the 18th century. Later it was also introduced in England in the mid-19th century by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Although no one is certain about the dating of Christmas, it became popular in Austria, Switzerland, Poland and Holland.

Each of the four gospels describes the life of Christ from different aspects and view-points. To analyse the birth of Jesus, let us look at more closely at Jesus‘ life as recorded in Mathew’s Gospel. Of the four Gospels, only Mathew talks about the Wise Men inquiring where was the Child that was born to be King of the Jews?.

According to Mathew 2:1-2 ‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and ask, ” Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Bethlehem is the town which is about seven miles northwest of Nazareth and the Bible emphasizes that Jesus was to come from the tribe and territory that produced the line of Davidic Kings. Thus the Jews expected the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem and to be born from David’s family is clear from John 7: 42. “Does not the scripture say that Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?”

Guided by the star, the Gentile Wise men made the long journey from the East (possibly Persia about 800 miles away) to worship the promised Messiah-King. They probably were familiar with the book of Daniel and other prophecies concerning the birth of the Messiah. No doubt, they spent many weeks and huge expenditure for travelling to Bethlehem to worship the baby Jesus. They made the journey with camels for most of the way led through deserts. Perhaps it meant that a child born at such time who would become a great King or a wise general. So they watched this strangely moving star, and they decided that it must have been sent to announce the birth of a great King.

The chief priests and scribes who lived in Jerusalem also knew the Scriptures concerning the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem just six miles away, but they did not present gifts to the new-born King. Many people who hear about the birth of Christ react as Herod did, and it is said “Herod was trouble he heard about the birth of the Messiah” (Mathew 3:3). Others, like the chief priests and scribes, are satisfied with merely knowing the historical facts. And of course, Herod had not the slightest intention of worshipping the new-born King, for he was a wicked and despotic man. He had an evil intention to eliminate him as soon as he found out where he was, so that the child could not grow up and become a King. In the best analysis, true “wise men” still seek Jesus because he is the way, the truth and the life. In short, it takes more than human reasoning for someone to willingly sacrifice time and treasure to the lord; it takes genuine love and true dedication.

At last the three wise men had found the child they were looking for, and they kneeled down and worshipped him. Opening their treasures, they took out the precious gifts which they had brought – gold and rare perfumes called frank-incense and myrrh. And God, who was taking care of His son all the time, sent a dream by warning the wise men not to go back to Herod. They went home to their own country by another route, and King Herod waited for them in vain. However, he sent his soldiers to Bethlehem with orders to kill every baby boy in the whole town, from the little new-born babies to those that were two years old. Herod could not kill God’s son! But there was a scene of terror in Bethlehem! The soldiers went into every house, killing every baby boy they found. Not long afterwards, wicked Herod died.

Then what is God’s plan and intention in the birth of Jesus? According to John 3:16, ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have an eternal life,” The evidence of God’s love for the world is that he gave his one and only son for the sake of the world . He gave his son’s life for our sins. According to God`s promise, Jesus came to this world as the lamb of God for the sin of the world.

Many intellectual people ask, “How can a God of Love condemn peoples to Hell? Why does God condemn at all if God is love?” Here is the answer. God never condemns anyone. As it is written in John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only son”. They condemn themselves by rejecting God’s love through his son Jesus Christ. Thus, we must not reject God’s love because of our love of world! We must newly accept new-born baby Jesus as God’s love into our hearts so that we can see the Kingdom of God and enter the Kingdom of God.

Many questions arise! There seems to be a complete failures of Christianity in northeast India ..! How dare we call ourselves a ‘Christian’ when we follow the Christian principles merely inside the church and do all sorts of things outside! And instead of taking the blame on ourselves, it is even worse to say that Christianity is a failure among the tribal communities in the Northeast. But I must say that Christianity is not a failure in our land but instead, we, as a Christian failed! I think first of all we should keep in mind the difference between nominal Christians and true followers of Christ, Churches and true Christians. If we have to discuss this topic critically, it will only turn out to be fault-finding of individuals. Let the Evangelists preach and serve the Lord faithfully. Let the churches be built as the true churches of God. There sho-uld be certain distinction between business and church.

Self-criticism is a first step to be able to discuss our faults. Being able to discuss is the second step to understanding and eventually to change our mind-set and erroneous ways. For years, none of us dare to criticise our church leaders, let alone talk about it. It is taboo! Candidly speaking, We are not Christians but Churc-hians..! Hence, who are the Christians??!! It is even worst to base your faith in God (or Christ) and used it for our own selfish corruptions.

In conclusion, let us use the remaining days of December 25 for self meditation, look deep into ourselves. As for me, I find so many defects in myself. I find that I love myself and my dear ones more than anything else, and the greatest gift that God gave me, as He himself is Love. Knowing this only, I find I could love my other fellow beings. God has made us unique, different from all His other creations over which we are masters and He made us the creator of our destiny. Our destiny depends on how we choose it, shape and make it and how we let others get away with it. There is freedom to choose our own destiny. Even God does not mandate that we serve him. He gives us that choice. Of course, the will to choose to serve him is a gift from God.

Love is another fundamental core belief which we do unto others as we would want them to do unto us. No other value system in the world has a better love-principle, a fundamental belief in a loving and merciful creator who calls us to love and care for others— to care for the things that he cares for. The life of Christ, his words, his example, his willingness to sacrifice even the last drop of his blood is too precious for us. And herein lies my answer. If we are to seriously follow the teachings of Christ, his example, there would be love, compas-sion, integrity, commitment, honesty, respect, responsibility and so on. What a difference that would make in our lives, within our homes, our community, and our governing bodies within every fabric life!