The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day seem to get crazier every year. As a matter of fact, I heard that a store manager of a Wal-Mart in New York was trampled to death on Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving). Such actions are UNACCEPTABLE in our society: they publicize Americans as being rowdy, uncontrolled, and inhumane.
In parallel, the Christmas season seems to have less to do with Christ and more to do with buying/shopping and “what am I going to get?” attitudes. Shopping malls began their Christmas celebration in mid-November, and it will probably be earlier next year. Christmas, like many other holidays such as Easter, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day, has its roots in the Catholic Church. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, which is why the holiday is called Christmas. The true Christmas celebration lasts for twelve days (hence the song “Twelve Days of Christmas”) from December 25th to January 6th, or Epiphany. On the day of Epiphany, the Church celebrates the day that the three wise men came from the East to bring gifts of Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh to the baby Jesus. On the contrary, our society generally starts Christmas weeks, even months, before, and ends abruptly at 11:59:59 PM on Christmas Day.
Two accounts of the absolute truth to the celebration of Christmas can be found in the Bible (see below). Many aspects of the two birth narratives or nativity accounts are proven facts. For example, the Star of Bethlehem is a real historical event.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream and said to him: “Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” All this happened to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
“The virgin shall be with child and give birth to a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel,”
a name which means “God is wih us.” When Joseph awoke he did as the angel of the Lord had directed him and received her into his home as his wife. He had no relations with her at any time before she bore a son, whom he named Jesus.
After Jesus' birth in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of King Herod, astrologers from the East arrived one day in Jerusalem inquiring, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” At this news King Herod became greatly disturbed, and with him all Jerusalem. Summoning all of the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they informed him. “Here is what the prophet has written:
‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the princes of Judah, since from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”
Herod called the astrologers aside and found out from them the exact time of the star’s appearance. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, after having instructed them: “Go and get detailed information about the child. When you have found him, report it to me so that I may go and offer him homage too.”
After their audience with the king, they set out. The star which they had observed at its rising went ahead of them until it came to a standstill over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house, found the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their coffers and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
They received a message in a dream not to return to Herod, so they went back to their own country by another route.
Matthew 1:18 — 2:12
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Upon arriving, the angel said to her: “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” She was deeply troubled by his words, and wondered what his greeting meant. The angel went on to say to her; “Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will be without end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How an this be since I do not know a man?” The angel answered her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God. Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be sterile is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary said: “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” With that the angel left her.
In those days Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole world. This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to register, each to his own town. And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to David’s town of Bethlehem—because he was of the house and lineage of David—to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child.
While they were there the days of her confinement were completed. She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged.
There were shepherds in the region, living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flocks. The angel of the Lord appeared to them as the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very much afraid The angel said to them: “You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you—tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people.
This day in David’s city at savior has been born to you, the Messiah and Lord. Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes.” Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom is favor rests.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.” They went in hast and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger; once they saw, they understood what had been told them concerning this child. All who heard of it were astonished at the report given them by the shepherds.
Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, in accord with what had been told them.
Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20