About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The Magic Of Christmas


I like the way author and Bible teacher Joel Rosenberg said it in a recent radio interview.  "Christmas isn't a Biblical holiday.  It's a cultural holiday."  I'd add that it is, and maybe always has been, a confusing concoction of Christianity, paganism, and a heavy dose of commercialized secularism.     


As early as the second century Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus in various ways.  It wasn't until after Emperor Constantine declared the  Roman Empire to be Christian in the fourth century that Christmas began to be celebrated.  Prior to then, Christians didn't celebrate birthdays, including Jesus' birthday.  Origen, of Alexandria, Egypt, an influential early church father and apologist, summed it up this way.  In 245 A D while commenting on Leviticus 12 he said that only sinners are found celebrating birthdays in the Bible.  Prior to the fourth century, Christians associated birthdays with emperor worship because many emperors demanded worship on their birthdays.  What Christians did celebrate were death days, which were the dates when Christians were executed by the emperor's regime.     


How the church evolved after 312 A D is well documented.  I won't go into that.  I'll just point out one thing.  By the mid fourth century the term "sun of righteousness" as seen in Malachi 4:2 became associated with the pagan sun god.  This bit of linguistic license helped to appease the pagans and make them feel comfortable in that which was called church.  As some ill-advised Muslims and Christians join in worship today as an expression of unity, so pagans and Christians joined in worship on a day called Christmas, during a season that was traditionally dedicated to the worship of the sun god, not to the Son of God.  Such accommodation by the church has been seen throughout history.  It has been doctrinalized into what has been called "the doctrine of accommodation."            


Since the fourth century Christmas in the western world has been romanticized by many magical and mystical traditions that have little to no relevance to the human birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This came to my attention again when I pulled a Christmas C D entitled "The Magic Of Christmas" from my C D shelf.  My Biblical orientated brain immediately asked, "What does magic have to do with Christmas?" 


"The magic of Christmas" is just part of the language of the season, but it's not the language of the Bible.  I know; they're just words.  We're not really talking about black or white magic, or so they say.  I suggest that the words we speak have significance.  That's why I believe Jesus told us that what is in our hearts our mouths speak (Luke 6:45).  Unless Jesus was wrong, if our mouths speak words of magic, that tells me something about what's in our hearts.  So, I borrow a phrase from the Beatles when I say that Christmas for most is a "magical mystery tour" through a world of fairy tales and fantasies.  Along with the magic of Santa and the elves is the apparent magic of the virgin birth.                   


I don't know if Emperor Constantine and his cohorts understood the meaning of John 1:1, but if they did, I doubt if they would have joined forces with the pagan community to create Christmas.  John 1:1 states that in the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God.  There's no debate.  The Word is Jesus, but, if you think about it, John's statement makes no human sense.  That's one reason why church leaders throughout the centuries have argued, debated, fought, and even killed each other, over who God is.  One point of contention that was allowed to separate the church into east and west was whether the Holy Spirit emanated from the Father alone or from Jesus as well.  Even after all of the historic creeds, councils, and reform movements, Christians still differ over the essence of God.  My feeble attempt to explain this as seen in John 1:1 certainly won't do this Scripture justice, but I'll attempt to explain it anyway. 


John said that the Word; that's Jesus, was both with God and was God.  In human terms, that's just not possible.  Someone can't both be with somebody and also be that somebody.  Is this some kind of magic trick on the part of God?  Is John being overly mystical here?  Is the birth of Jesus really magical?        


The Greek word "logos" is translated as "Word" in this verse.  The first known usage of "logos" seems to go back as far as 600 B C when a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus used it in reference to the "divine process of reasoning".   This appears to be how John understood logos.  In short, logos is a thought that is transmitted into something tangible, and in this case the tangible is Jesus.  In my simplicity I believe that Jesus is the mind of God in human flesh, who now exists in some kind of divine human form.  In theological terms this is called the "Deity of Christ"; the fundamental Biblical truth that leads one to God and salvation. 


Our religious and secular culture mixes the birth of Jesus into the same magical concoction with Santa Clause, elves, and the sun god.  It's called "the magic of Christmas".  Let's be Biblical accurate, this mixture is blasphemous.  There is nothing magical nor mystical about the birth of God's mind into humanity.  The human birth of God is a divine miracle, directly from the thoughts of the Almighty. 


You might think I'm putting a damper on Christmas, and maybe I am.  What I'm really doing is attempting to elevate the Holy and Majestic name of our Lord Jesus Christ out of an unholy mixture with Santa Clause, the elves, the sun god, and all of what our culture calls Christmas.


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