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Love of God

One of my friends recently commented “Those who think that the Taj Mahal is the greatest sign of love have apparently not seen The Cross of Calvary”.

Well I know we are celebrating Christmas season, similarly we have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Valentine’s Day and of course our birthdays, but we don’t have a day set apart for Jesus. You might think that Christmas is set apart for Jesus, but in most cases that is not true. We might give Him an hour at church, but the rest of day we do what we want to do.

When we celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or someone’s birthday, we usually devote just to him. The Bible says in Matthew 25:40 “and the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” This is how we can make Jesus happy by encouraging, calling and visiting people, sharing them the love of Jesus, the purpose of him coming in our midst and the sacrifice of LOVE at the cross of Calvary.

Jesus has done so much for us and continues daily to do things for us, Can’t we set apart just one day for Him? We may never get it on the calendar but we as his, can set apart a day just for Jesus and then every year keep that day just for Him. How we must hurt Jesus, when we go about our busy schedules and ignore Him most of the day, only fitting Him in when it is convenient for us. One day, we will see Him face to face and I don’t want to see the hurt and sadness in my Saviour’s eyes because I ignored him most of the day.

Lets make this Christmas season meaningful for us as well as the people we know around, people who do not know the LOVE of GOD.

Why is Christmas Day on the 25th December?

No one knows the real birthday of Jesus!

No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December?

The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated! 

Also, the birth of Jesus probably didn’t happen in the year 1AD but slightly earlier, somewhere between 2BC and 7BC.

(there isn’t a 0AD – the years go from 1BC to 1AD!).

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine.

(he was the first Christian Roman Emperor).

 A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

There are many different traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th.

A very early Christian tradition said that the day when Mary was told that she would have a very special baby, Jesus (called the Annunciation) was on March 25th – and it’s still celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December! March 25th was also the day some early Christians thought the world had been made, and also the day that Jesus died on when he was an adult.

December 25th might have also been chosen because the Winter Solstice and the ancient pagan Roman midwinter festivals called ‘Saturnalia’ and ‘Dies Natalis Solis Invicti’ took place in December around this date – so it was a time when people already celebrated things.

The Winter Solstice is the day where there is the shortest time between the sun rising and the sun setting.

 It happens on December 21st or 22nd.

To pagans this meant that the winter was over and spring was coming and they had a festival to celebrate it and worshipped the sun for winning over the darkness of winter. In Scandinavia, and some other parts of northern Europe, the Winter Solstice is known as Yule and is where we get Yule Logs from.

In Eastern Europe the mid-winter festival is called Koleda.

The Roman Festival of Saturnalia took place between December 17th and 23rd and honoured the Roman god Saturn.

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means ‘birthday of the unconquered sun’ and was held on December 25th (when the Romans thought the Winter Solstice took place) and was the ‘birthday’ of the Pagan Sun god Mithra.

 In the pagan religion of Mithraism, the holy day was Sunday and is where get that word from!

Early Christians might have given this festival a new meaning – to celebrate the birth of the Son of God ‘the unconquered Son’!

(In the Bible a prophesy about the Jewish savior, who Christians believe is Jesus, is called ‘Sun of Righteousness’.)

The Jewish festival of Lights, Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev (the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December). Hanukkah celebrates when the Jewish people were able to re-dedicate and worship in their Temple, in Jerusalem, again following many years of not being allowed to practice their religion. 

Jesus was a Jew, so this could be another reason that helped the early Church choose December the 25th for the date of Christmas!

Christmas had also been celebrated by the early Church on January 6th, when they also celebrated the Epiphany (which means the revelation that Jesus was God’s son) and the Baptism of Jesus. Now the Epiphany mainly celebrates the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus, but back then it celebrated both things!

Jesus’s Baptism was originally seen as more important than his birth, as this was when he started his ministry.

But soon people wanted a separate day to celebrate his birth.

Most of the world uses the ‘Gregorian Calendar’ implemented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

 Before that the ‘Roman’ or Julian Calendar was used (named after Julius Caesar).

The Gregorian calendar is more accurate that the Roman calendar which had too many days in a year!

When the switch was made 10 days were lost, so that the day that followed the 4th October 1582 was 15th October 1582.

In the UK the change of calendars was made in 1752. The day after 2nd September 1752 was 14th September 1752. 

Many Orthodox and Coptic Churches still use the Julian Calendar and so celebrate Christmas on the 7th January.

And the Armenian Church celebrates it on the 6th January! In some part of the UK, January 6th is still called ‘Old Christmas’ as this would have been the day that Christmas would have celebrated on, if the calendar hadn’t been changed. Some people didn’t want to use the new calendar as they thought it ‘cheated’ them out of 11 days!

Christians believe that Jesus is the light of the world, so the early Christians thought that this was the right time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

They also took over some of the customs from the Winter Solstice and gave them Christian meanings, like Holly, Mistletoe and even Christmas Carols!

St Augustine was the person who really started Christmas in the UK by introducing Christianity in the 6th century.

He came from countries that used the Roman Calendar, so western countries celebrate Christmas on the 25th December. Then people from Britain and Western Europe took Christmas on the 25th December all over the world!

The name ‘Christmas’ comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The ‘Christ-Mass’ service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day), so people had it at Midnight! So we get the name Christ-Mass, shortened to Christmas.

So When Was Jesus Born?

There’s a strong and practical reason why Jesus might not have been born in the winter, but in the spring or the autumn!

It can get very cold in the winter and it’s unlikely that the shepherds would have been keeping sheep out on the hills (as those hills can get quite a lot of snow sometimes!).

During the spring (in March or April) there’s a Jewish festival called ‘Passover’.

This festival remembers when the Jews had escaped from slavery in Egypt about 1500 years before Jesus was born.

Lots of lambs would have been needed during the Passover Festival, to be sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem. Jews from all over the Roman Empire travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, so it would have been a good time for the Romans to take a census.

Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census.

(Bethlehem is about six miles from Jerusalem).

In the autumn (in September or October) there’s the Jewish festival of ‘Sukkot’ or ‘The Feast of Tabernacles’.

It’s the festival that’s mentioned the most times in the Bible!

 It was when the Jewish people remember that they depended on God for all they had after they had escaped from Egypt and spent 40 years in the desert. It also celebrated the end of the harvest. During the festival people lived outside in temporary shelters (the word ‘tabernacle’ come from a latin word meaning ‘booth’ or ‘hut’).

Many people who have studied the Bible, think that Sukkot would be a likely time for the birth of Jesus as it might fit with the description of there being ‘no room in the inn’.

It also would have been a good time to take the Roman Census as many Jews went to Jerusalem for the festival and they would have brought their own tents/shelters with them!

The possibilities for the Star of Bethlehem seems to point either spring or autumn. 

So whenever you celebrate Christmas, remember that you’re celebrating a real event that happened about 2000 years ago, that God sent his Son into the world as a Christmas present for everyone!

As well as Christmas and the solstice, there are some other festivals that are held in late December.

Hanukkah is celebrated by Jews; and the festival of Kwanzaa is celebrated by some Africans and African Americans takes place from December 26th to January 1st.

Pleasure and Joy

There is a difference between pleasure and joy. The Bible says, “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man” (Proverbs 21:17). When we love pleasure, we are poor, if that is what we are seeking. Scripture also talks about people who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). Do you love pleasure more than you love God?

When we come to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts. Joy is produced by the Holy Spirit. More than 100 Scriptures talk about the joy of the Lord. That was the announcement at that first Christmas: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10).

If you take a stand and mean it, you may suffer persecution. Some of your friends will drift away. They don’t want to be with people like you. You speak to their conscience. They feel uncomfortable in your presence because you live for God. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).

Jesus said, “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Make the choice that Moses made—he turned his back on pleasure and followed God’s way. The Scriptures say, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). Moses chose the joy of following God rather than having the pleasures of Egypt.

Are you following the Lord Jesus? Or are you following the pleasures of this world and fulfilling the lusts of your own heart?

You can know the Christ of Christmas Part 2

Many have preached about the Sermon on the Mount as though that in itself is a sufficient dynamic to bring a new world order of peace and goodwill among men. All the religions of the world say, “Do good; do good,” but they do not give us the power to do good. One of the failures of many church leaders is their refusal to believe that our deepest problem is sin. We have joined hands with the idealists of the world in trying to bring about social reform without first dealing with the root of the problem, which is sin.

Many people have failed to see that the human will is sin-bound, egotistical and in rebellion against the will of God. We think that in some particular “ism” we hold the secret to universal peace and prosperity. All religions and ideologies outside God’s special revelation in the Bible have this in common: They are disguised forms of self-redemption and Christ rejection.

Without God we cannot put the world right because we cannot put ourselves right. It is beyond us to put away the sin in our own hearts. We cannot save ourselves, let alone the whole world. Sin permeates all that we think, feel and do; like a shadow, sin pursues us wherever we go. It is part and parcel of our being; we cannot eradicate it.

The evils that curse the world are the consequences of hearts deceived by the devil and separated from God. Thousands of human schemes for social and political improvement will ultimately fail because they do not deal with a person’s basic disease. They change the circumstances, but they leave the person untouched. They alter the surroundings, but they have no power to transform the character. If mankind is to be saved in this terrible hour of history, if the world is to be transformed, then salvation must come from a source outside ourselves.

Christmas emphasizes the glorious truth that salvation is provided apart from us, that into this sin-cursed world came One whose supreme mission is to save sinners.

We cannot save ourselves because we cannot deliver ourselves from the guilt, the power and the consequences of sin. Those in rebellion against God have no terms of peace to offer that are acceptable to God. Only God Himself can make peace, and this He has done through the atoning sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through the merits of Christ’s life and death, we are offered full and free forgiveness.

Christmas tells us what it cost God to save the world: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ is God’s great Christmas Gift to the world: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). Christ does for us what no other has been able to do: He removes our guilt and reconciles us to God. He raises us from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. He reconciles us to life and to our fellow man. He implants within us new hopes, new aims, new enthusiasms. He regenerates our affections, our desires and our energies, and strengthens our wills.

Beautiful, ethical precepts cannot save us, but Christ can. When Christ comes into a life, He revolutionizes it so that the person becomes a “new creation.” This, and this alone, is our hope.

This hope that was given to those shepherds on that first Christmas morning is available only to those who believe. To know the pardon, joy, peace and power that come through Christ, we must personally receive Christ by faith. Faith must be real if our hearts are to be changed. Mere intellectual assent is not enough. Where faith is genuine, its influence is powerful and revolutionary. This Christmas many people believe that Jesus is the Son of God, without any change happening in their lives. They have never repented and believed. What an astounding change would take place if the millions who profess to be Christians possessed genuine faith.

When we have genuine faith in Christ, a change takes place. We will have a new kind of relationship with our families, our employers, our employees and even our enemies.

Many people ask, “Why doesn’t this revolution happen to more people?” It is because millions of professing Christians are strangers to the genuine, saving faith that means coming to the end of ourselves, to the end of our self-reliance and self-righteousness, and then trusting absolutely in Christ for forgiveness, for moral and spiritual renewal.

The Christmas angels praised God and proclaimed peace on earth. It was by and through Jesus Christ that peace was to come to the earth. Scripture says, “He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). All else is confusion, discord and disorder. Jesus Christ is life’s integrator. He is humanity’s harmonizer, the race’s reconciler, the world’s peace-giver: “For there is born to you this day… a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Courtesy – Billy Graham (Decision Magazine)

You can know the Christ of Christmas Part 1

Once again the world celebrates Christmas in the midst of crisis. Millions are not certain they will survive to see another Christmas. In many parts of the world, Christmas carolers will stand outside their neighbors’ doors and sing “Silent Night! Holy Night!” Everyone is busily preparing for the holiday season.

Yet, in the midst of this preparation, millions have missed the real meaning of Christmas.

In the midst of the Christmas rush, Christ is often left out as we forget that it is actually His birthday we are celebrating. The precise meaning of that first Christmas is clear: God came to earth in human form.

Some 2,000 years ago, the angel revealed to the wondering and trembling shepherds the glorious news that there was born that day “in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The angel had already announced to Joseph the character of Christ’s Saviorhood: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Israel had looked for One who would deliver them from the bondage of Rome and restore the nation to an even greater glory and prosperity than was enjoyed in the days of King David. They never dreamed that this little Babe in Bethlehem’s manger was the anointed One, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Only a few devout people living in close communion with God, such as the aged Simeon, saw the spiritual significance of Christ’s birth. Looking into the face of the holy Babe, Simeon saw One who had come to be “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of [God’s] people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

There is a story that comes to us out of the World War II years in England. A good mother tried daily to keep the memory of her young son’s father fresh in the boy’s mind. Often this mother would take the lad into the library of their home, and there they would stand and gaze at the beautiful portrait of his father. One day the young boy looked long and wistfully at his father’s picture and said to his mother, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Father could just step down out of the frame?”

For long centuries the children of God had walked in the light of the lawgiver and of the prophets, but all the while they had looked up to Heaven and longed to have God step down “out of the frame.” In Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, that is just what God did. He became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh and “dwelt among us.” The Christmas message is this: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

But because people were blind to their sins, they saw no beauty in Christ that they should desire Him. They crucified the Christ who yearned to save them from their sins and from the tragic consequences that inevitably followed their rejection of God’s anointed.

Human nature has not changed. We like the excitement and thrill of Christmas, but we reject the true meaning of Christ’s birthday.

The world’s primary need today is the Savior—salvation from sin. Failure to recognize this fact and receive God’s remedy for sin is the reason mankind has failed to prevent recurring wars and revolutions in the world. The best schemes and endeavors of people come to naught because within their hearts is lust for position, power and possessions.

Jesus Christ said, “Out of the heart … proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). Until these things are rooted out, the world in a moral and a spiritual sense will go backward rather than forward.

Courtesy – Billy Graham (Decision ministries).