This was taken from a tape by Focus On The Family in the Pastor To Pastor series, tape number 26. The title is “Christmas Then & Now: Holiday History.” There will be two more posts to follow this one (God willing) which will complete the transcript from the tape…
Isaiah 11:1-5 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom & of understanding, the Spirit of counsel & of power, the Spirit of knowledge & of the fear of the LORD– 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
Approximately between 3 to 6 BC Jesus was born in Bethlehem just as prophesied in Scripture.
200 AD. Some determined that December 25th was the date of Jesus’ birth because by their calculation March 25th was the date of his conception. This was based on the premise that the Messiah’s conception was to coincide with creation, exactly 5,500 years before. This was also to be the time of the crucifixion. All three happening on March 25th. The church needed a December celebration to offer head on competition to the sun worshipper’s feast. Thus the church of the day decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. As was later written, “We do not hold this day holy as worship of the sun, but in honor of the one who made it.”
Between AD 336-337 Rome celebrated Christmas. The Roman Emperor Constantine was baptized uniting the Emperorship and the Church. Christianity became the official state religion.
In AD 354 Bishop Liberias of Rome reiterated the importance of acknowledging Christ’s death, but also his birth. Though the nativity celebration had to wait until late in the 4th Century to enter the Christian calendar, certain elements of the Christmas celebration was firmly rooted at least one century before.
In the 700’s the custom of a Christmas tree with decorations is believed to have begun in Germany.
In 1050 the first German Christmas carol was written.
In 1223 in Italy Saint Francis of Assisi recreated the birth of Christ using actors. He used a wax figure for the baby Jesus, and life sized actors and staging.
On the morning of Christmas day 1492, Christopher Columbus’ flag ship… the Santa Maria… went aground off Espanola. He took this accident as a sign from God that He wanted Spaniards to start a colony on this spot. With wood and timbers from the Santa Maria they build fortifications and christened it as The Town Of The Nativity.
In 1561 a forced ordinance in Germany states that… “No one shall have for Christmas more than one bush of more than eight shoes length.” The decorations of that time were paper roses, apples, wafers, gilts, and sugar. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther first added lighted candles to the tree after being inspired while walking through the woods at night, composing a sermon, and seeing the beauty of stars glittering off the evergreens. He duplicated this for his family by adding candles to the Christmas tree.
On Christmas day 1607 it did not seem like Jamestown would succeed as on 38 were left of the original 100 plus pioneers who settled the town in Virginia the previous May. Death from disease and Indians had decimated their ranks, but still they took time celebrate the birth of Christ and pray. The town did survive and was the first to do so in the new world.
Also in 1607 Captain John Smith and his men were served a Christmas feast by Powhatan’s tribe. They had oysters, wild fowl, fish, and bread.
In 1645 Indians at Macaknack, which is now Mackinaw Michigan, met to sing hymns in honor of the new born child. A missionary of that time composed the first American carol called, “Jesus Is Born,” written to the tune of an old French folk song.
On December 22, 1657 Christmas was abolished by an order of Cromwell’s Puritan Counsel. Minced pies and plumb porridge were outlawed. Two years later in Connecticut there was a law put on the books that forbade both the keeping of Christmas and the making of minced pies. In Massachusetts a similar law was passed and enforced. But in Virginia, pro-Christmas Church of England parishioners defied Oliver Cromwell and maintained their Christmas worship and celebrations throughout the Colonial period.
(Click here for part 2)
I enjoyed reading the history of Christmas….thanks for sharing it on your blog. I look forward to reading Part II and to checking in on occasion to see what other interesting lessons and ruminations you have written.
All the best! Oh..and…Merry Christmas!!