Spiritual December Report
Christmas Is Not A Date – It Is A State Of Mind
In a few weeks we will be celebrating the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ – Christmas. Most of the Christian world will celebrate this great Feast on December 25, or those on the Julian Calendar on January 7. However, many religious historians will quickly tell you the actual birth date of Jesus Christ is unknown. Some biblical scholars believe Jesus’ birth would have occurred during April-October, while some historical documents claim birth dates as precise as March 28. Latin-speaking Christians had come to the view that December 25 was the "historical" date of Christ's birth before the end of the Third Century.
The Roman Emperor Aurelian (270-275) instituted a new pagan festival, the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, on December 25, which was then the Winter Solstice. Consequently, December 25 was popularized as the date for Christmas, not because Christ was born on that day, but because it was already popular in pagan religious celebrations as the birthday of the sun. In any event, in A.D. 350 Pope Julius I, bishop of Rome, is recognized by historians as having proclaimed December 25 the official celebration date for the birthday of Jesus.
The East took January 6 as the date to celebrate the "manifestation" of Christ, his birth, his manifestation to the Magi and especially his baptism in the Jordan, hence Epiphany or Theophany. In the Fourth Century the celebration of December 25 as the commemoration of Christ's birth began to spread in the East.
The actual year of the birth of Jesus is an unknown, with most accounts placing it somewhere around 5 B.C. The “Star of Bethlehem” is cited in scripture as heralding Jesus’ arrival, and is believed by some to be a slow-moving comet documented by Chinese astrologers also in 5 B.C.
“Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind.” What is important is not the exact day of the birth of our Lord, but that Christmas is the experience of the Eternal God, through Jesus Christ. By the Incarnation of the Son of God, our generosity and joy become standards in Christian living where grief and sadness do not exist. Jesus is coming with a new promise of love, which is in the Christian heart and does not leave, because Christ Himself wipes away all anxieties.
There are times when we think about the Nativity season, that we tend to lose the real meaning behind the spectacular decorations, music, etc. These external trappings are important for our lives as well – for our physical and emotional well-being. But how about our spiritual side?
Our spiritual preparation often takes a back seat to our material preparation. We are all called to live this divine event—this Incarnation—this God with us! We are called to awaken this reality of "God with us" in others by our own reality of the "God with us" experience. Each day as we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord, we have many opportunities to share in this Holy Season.
Let us show the world the real meaning of the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord, and not the hype. Stress the message of Christmas (Love), not the materialism! The entire Christmas season instills in many a sense of peace and harmony that culminates in the rituals of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is a time of joy and general good cheer. So, as we begin this preparation season for the Nativity of our Savior, let us remember, Christmas [Nativity] is not one single day, but it is a state of mind, it is our attitude to each other, our way of life. It is Incarnation. God becoming one of us so that we can become like God.
Mitred Archpriest John S. Kachuba | GCU Spiritual Advisor