I mean, when is it really Christmas--the Christ Mass?
Sextus Julius Africanus, an early historian calculated in 221 A.D. that the Incarnation took place on March 25, Nine months later would be December 25, conveniently four days after the winter solstice—the shortest day of the year.
But there is some evidence, based on passages in Luke, that Jesus was born in late September or early October. Other people claim that He was at other times during the year.
The historical western Church has celebrated Jesus' birth on December 25 since 273 A.D., and many western churches still celebrate twelve days of Christmas with the Feast of Lights (coming of the Wise Men) on January 6. Eastern (orthodox) churches, however, used to celebrate Jesus birth and baptism on January 6 -- and, according to RelgionFacts.com, a few eastern churches still do so. Most eastern churches celebrate His birth on December 25 and His baptism on January 6.
Many Christians rightly note that the Incarnation of Christ -- His conception -- should take precedence over His birth.
Our consumer culture today would have us believe that Christmas begins just after Labor Day, builds in intensity over a three month period, and ends rather abruptly at midnight on December 25.
As a result, we're sick of Christmas by the time it arrives and we dread its return the next year.
No wonder, in the words of John W. Peterson, we have:
"No room, here in the hearts of mankind.
No room, no cheery welcome to find.
No room. Surely the world is blind.
Ah, well. For me, Christmas is December 25 through January 6 -- all twelve days. Advent ("coming") is the time of preparation that includes the four Sundays before Christmas.
For me, Christmas is about Jesus being born within, not just about His birth 2,000 some years ago, so my preparation time begins in the summer when I begin preparing for the Christmas program at our church. In the writing and in the rehearsing during the fall, something new of Jesus is born in me -- a new understanding of this mystery, a flash of insight into His Word -- and something new of Jesus is born into our church family -- people from first service getting to know people from second and third services, a fourteen-year-old discussing Scripture with a fifty-year-old and an eight-year-old leading us in prayer.
My prayer is that something new of Jesus is born in those who attend the programs, usually held the second or third Sonday in Advent.
This year, our home Nativity set went up on the 20th. And, after years of not putting up a tree, I impulsively put up a table-top one on the 24th.
Both will stay up until January 6. And as long as all the packages and cards are in the mail by the 6th, I count myself as being on time with deliveries -- more or less. ;-)
But who's to say Christmas can't be February 10 or May 3 or August 19? Something new of Jesus can -- should? -- be born in us as often as He and we are willing.
Happy Birthday, Jesus -- today and every day!