The Vicar writes for December…..
Here we are already at the beginning of December and looking forward to celebrating the birth of our Lord once again.
Have you ever wondered why we celebrate it on the 25th December? After all, nowhere in the Bible does it state that Jesus was born on that day. One theory is that having worked out the date of his Passion as being the 25th March, and tradition holding that the conception was on the same date, that brings us nine months later to 25th December.
Another popular theory is that it replaced an existing pagan festival dedicated to the Roman Sun god – Solis Invicti. This festival was called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, “the birthday of the unconquered sun”, to mark the Winter solstice. So what could be more appropriate; the birth of the Son of Righteousness replacing the birth of the Sun god? I like that!
The earliest mention of the 25th December being celebrated as the anniversary of our Lord’s birth is in a Roman document called the Philocalian Calendar dating from AD 354, but including a reference to an earlier Roman practice back in the year AD 336. This is the earliest mention of celebrating the birth of Jesus on 25th December. The festival then spread from Rome throughout the West. It is not certain whether the Celtic Church introduced it to England but certainly St Augustine brought it with him, because on Christmas Day in AD 598 more than ten thousand English converts were baptized! Wow!
It’s easy to despair at the commercialization of Christmas and the feeling that, for many, it is not a religious festival but a secular holiday with an excuse to overindulge. And doesn’t your heart sink when you hear of schools banning Nativity plays, and greetings cards which cheerfully wish you a “Happy Holiday!”
However, in spite of all the excesses, Christmas brings us together like no other time in the Christian year. Carol Services, Christingle, Nativities and Crib services tell the story once more of Christ’s birth to packed congregations of all ages. Imaginations and hearts are stirred by the mystery of the Incarnation and we are all reminded that Love came down that first Christmas in the guise of a vulnerable baby and has remained with us ever since.
Families will get together to share that love whether or not they recognize the source of it and that is something to praise God for. My prayer is that the life changing message of the angels, “Good News for all”, will creep into the hearts of all this Christmas and that long after the day is past the knowledge of God’s love will remain.
May God bless you and your loved ones with a very happy, peaceful and joyful Christmas.
Revd Angela and Peter