December 4, 2019 First Week of Advent – Day Four of the Advent Alphabet
D is for December. Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th? (It is not as if we can check Jesus’ birth certificate.) Outside of a few critical references to the early Christians that can be found in histories written within a century of the earthly life of Jesus, there are no documents that tell us anything about him, outside of the New Testament.
The contents of the New Testament, as we know it today, were not collected until around 300 years after Jesus’ time, and scholars think that the earliest parts of the New Testament were written at least 40-50 years after the first Easter. All of which is a long way of saying that we don’t actually have much to go on, when it comes to learning about the birth of Jesus.
What about the census? You may remember that Luke’s Gospel says, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.” (Luke 2:1-3)
The Roman Empire had a well-developed bureaucracy, which left detailed documents that historians find incredibly helpful. But there is actually no record of the census that Luke mentions. (Scholars actually question whether the Romans ever had a census that required people to travel to their places of origin.)
I recommend an article found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas for a detailed summary of the history of the celebration of Jesus’ birthday on December 25. It offers a depth and breadth of discussion on the topic that I can’t duplicate here.
Does the fact that the December 25 date for Jesus’ birthday is not historically supported, and not even biblically suggested, take something away from our celebrations?
Another site I would recommend is:
This above will take you to a Huffington Post article that details the dates and some background of the many diverse religious and cultural celebrations that happen at this time of year. Many of these festivals are about light. It really seems people all over the world have needed a hopeful celebration in the season of the Winter Solstice.
God is at work in the world every moment of every day, helping give birth to love and hope and new possibility. Each and every day we open ourselves up to the presence of God can be for us a holy day.
I continue to encourage you to take two minutes each day for silent prayer, and open yourself to the living presence of God. If it helps you to settle in, light a candle, and think of Jesus as the light of the world.
The Advent Alphabet is a ministry offering from Rev. Darrow Woods, pastor at the United Church in Harrow, Ontario. Each day in Advent, a different letter of the English Alphabet will be a jumping off place for a reflection. These reflections will be sent out via email to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, and will also be posted to Rev. Darrow’s Facebook page.