Christmas is a very special time of year. It is a time of celebration, good will and miracles. It is also a time of year when many people spend time together with their families and friends. And it is a time of traditions and dreams.
Christmas is a very old holiday, whose traditions are drawn from many different times, places and cultures.
The birth of Jesus Christ
The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is the focus of the Christmas holiday and a part of the reason that it is widely celebrated today. Many of the traditions surrounding the Christmas holiday revolve around the Nativity Story, or the story of Jesus’ birth. The Nativity Story is essentially drawn from two Gospels in the Holy Bible, the Gospel according to Matthew and the Gospel according to Luke. The following is a summary of the Nativity Story; however, the full story can be found in the Holy Bible or at www.bible.cc.
King Herod and Cesar Augustus – Approximately 2000 years ago, the Roman Empire occupied much of Europe, North Africa and areas around the Mediterranean Sea. These occupied lands included Israel, located on the eastern side of the Mediterranean. The ruler of the Roman Empire at the time of the Nativity Story was Caesar Augustus (63BC – 14AD), who succeeded Julius Caesar as the emperor of Rome.
Israel during the time of occupation was known as a client-state. As a client-state, it was essentially a colony and was therefore subject to the law of the Roman Empire. However, client-states would have local rulers (e.g. kings) that would enforce local laws. Generally, these local rulers would be loyal or subservient to the Roman Empire. The local ruler in Israel at the time of the Nativity Story was King Herod, also known as King Herod the Great.
Joseph and Mary – According to the Gospel of Luke, Joseph was a man who lived in the town of Nazareth, located in Northern Israel. Joseph was also a descendent of King David. Mary, who also lived in Nazareth, was a young woman set to be married to Joseph. Before they were married, an angel named Gabriel appeared to her. Gabriel announced to Mary that soon she would be with a child, and that she was to name his Jesus. At the time, Mary was still a virgin. She asked the angel, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Gabriel responded, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God. That she was pregnant with a child was certainly a miracle. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph was contemplating leaving Mary when he found out she was pregnant without him, but wanted to do so quietly so as not to disgrace her. However, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”, and that Mary and Joseph were to name him Jesus.
The birth of Jesus – Shortly thereafter, Caesar Augustus stated that a census should be taken across the entire Roman world. The Gospel of Luke states that, as Joseph was of the line of David, he was required to go to Bethlehem, the town of David, to register. Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, and while they were there, it was time for Jesus to be born. Mary gave birth to Jesus, and Joseph and Mary attempted to get a room at the local inn. However, there was no room at the inn on this particular night, so Mary and Joseph took refuge, and Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.
In fields nearby, shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks. An angel appeared to the shepherds and announced to them that in Bethlehem a Savior was born, and they would find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Then a “great company of the heavenly host appeared, praising God and saying
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
The shepherds then went to Bethlehem to find Jesus. When they found him, they spread word of the events that had taken place, and praised and gave glory to God.
The wise men from the east – Shortly after Jesus was born, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem asking “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod found out that the wise men were searching for the King of the Jews , he became worried. He sent the wise men out to find the newborn, and said that when they found Him, they should report back to Herod. The wise men then went out, and continued to follow the star until it rested over the place where Jesus was. When they found Him, they fell to the ground and worshipped Him. They then opened treasures they had brought with them, and they were gold, frankincense and myrrh. Later, in a dream, they were warned by God not to return to Herod, and they departed Israel. This is the end of the Nativity Story in the Bible.