Tis the Christmas season once again, and with it all the joys of the holiday. Glittering lights, gifts under the tree, turkey dinners, laughter with family and friends--Christmas is a day of celebration and good cheer.
But for Christians, the holiday is particularly special, for it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world and the central figure of Christianity.
Christmas, which is celebrated annually on Dec. 25, literally means the Mass (celebration) of Christ. "Christ" is a Greek word and title, meaning "anointed" or one set apart by God for a special purpose.
Based on the words of ancient prophets, the first century Jewish people expected the arrival of the Messiah promised by God as a great deliver of the people.
According to Biblical account of the Christmas story, about 2,000 years ago, a young woman named Mary and her husband Joseph left their home in Nazareth to travel to Joseph's ancestral home, Bethlehem, to enroll in the census ordered by the Roman emperor, Augustus. Finding no room in inns in the town, they set up primitive lodgings in a stable. There Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Christ-child, in a manger, where she was visited by shepherds and wise men.
At the time of Christ's birth, a host of angels appeared, praising God saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Christ's birth, which was predicted in the Biblical book of Isaiah, was God coming to earth in the form of human flesh, so that He could be crucified in order to save humanity from the curse of sin and death. Without Christ's birth, the hope of heaven would not exist.
For today's Christian, the origin of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible. However, according to PBS, the date of December 25th was originally a Roman holiday called "Saturnalia," a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25 . Variations of this pagan holiday flourished throughout the first few centuries after Jesus Christ, but it probably wasn't until 336 AD that Emperor Constantine officially converted this pagan tradition into the Christian holiday of Christmas.
Since then, Dec. 25 remains a day of celebration which serves as a wonderful reminder of Christ's humble beginning as a human child in this world. His birth merely set the stage for the power, glory, and salvation that would be revealed in His life, death, and resurrection.
Let us use this Christmas season as an opportunity to reflect on Jesus Christ and His message of hope for the world. Here are some Bible verses to help us remember the true meaning of Christmas: the love of Christ for His people.
Christ's birth brings hope
"The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in Him the Gentiles will hope. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:12-13)
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." (Isaiah 9:2,6-7)
Christ's coming brings peace
"You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all." (Acts 10:36)
"Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
Christ's coming brings joy
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:8-14)
Christ's coming brings love
"God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13)