Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

That was the plan. Nothing else would work. Mankind had tried it on our own and failed miserably. If there was to be any way out of this mess, God Himself would have to provide It. And He did, with a gift to the world. That was the starting point.

The Gift and the Sacrifice
God's gift was very special--it was at once a sacrifice and a gift. God only had one son; a son with whom He shared all, with whom He did all. The son had been with God at the creation and actually participated in the creation. He was there when, as one, they created mankind to dwell with and walk with God (Genesis 1:26). He was also there when mankind was separated from God by Adam's sin and cast out of the garden  "... to till the ground from whence he was taken." (Genesis 3:23).

As Adam and Eve represented all of mankind, their expulsion from the garden of Eden also represented our separation from God and the beginning of our enmity with Him. (And that would never do! How can any people survive when at odds with their creator?) And the plan for the redemption of mankind was as much the plan of the son of God as it was God's--it was by this plan that the only son of God would die, to live again only by our invitation.

The Facts
For centuries mankind sought ways back to God through ritual and sacrifice, and creation of our own gods. Fire and heat and utility were all very important in this effort--the book of Isaiah tells of how we cut trees from the forest for fuel to cook and warm us and to be carved into the gods we would seek to appease (Isaiah 44:14-15). But it has always been difficult knowing when inanimate objects are appeased. So we tried ploys from fasting with sackcloth to the sacrifice of animals and even the sacrifice of our own children (Isaiah 57:5).

In the early centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Church (that group of people called out by Jesus to live a different type of life) had a regular observance of Christ's death. After all, the time of Christ's death was well known as it had occurred at the time of the Passover which commemorated the rescue of the Jews from Egypt by the smearing of the blood of a lamb over the door posts of all Israelite households. The blood protected the Israelites from God's plague which killed the first-born of all households in the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:12). This is very similar to the scarlet thread in the harlot Rahab's window that identified her household as the one to be spared when the Israelites attacked Jericho.

There is still no evidence of the exact time of His birth.

Folk lore and sun worship
Some say that ancient Romans worshiped the sun. The Sun had apparently become displeased with his parishioners and started to depart. When he changed his mind and sent his son back to warm the people at the beginning of the winter solstice (December 22), the Romans declared the rising of the sun the day of Jr.'s birth and began an annual observance. (The Ancient Egyptians had worshiped the sun as the god Ra, and the Greeks had worshiped the sun as the god Helios.) The church began to celebrate Christ's birth when Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire. As much as there was already a day for god, why not use it.

A capital idea!
Today, Christmas is a highly successful commercial venture. Up to 70 percent of the volume of department stores and mail-order sales occurs between November 15 and January 30. Major expenditures are often planned for this time of year; the ring, the car, the trip, the bike, the stove. The Christmas season not only crowds both requisite and non requisite spending into a 45-day window, but also stimulates compulsory spending and generates corollary expenditures for items such as cards and decorations. Christmas has been a masterful stroke of the marketers.

This is not to say that Christmas has no religious significance.

Christmas, with meaning
Christmas is to Easter as a deposit or down payment is to the closing. Although we do not know the exact time of Jesus' birth, we know that His birth signaled that a decision had been made concerning returning us to God. With the birth of Christ, God's plan was set in motion. The plan involved participants who unknowingly acted in accord with God's plan; like the young girl Mary, chosen to conceive the son of God and be scorned by the townsfolk--no matter what she said, they knew she should have been stoned, and would have been had that foolish Joseph not been so easily strung along; the innkeeper, ridiculed throughout history for having "no room in the inn," as if he could snap his fingers and create space; and Caesar Augustus, who had the brilliant idea to require citizens to travel to their place of birth for taxation (Luke 2:1-4); Pilate who could not wash away his involvement in the crucifixion; Barabbas, the murderer who was set free in lieu of Jesus; Joseph of Arimathaea who offered his tomb for Jesus' burial -- they and many others all played along with God's plan to arrange the special birth and sacrifice of His son. But the plan did not stop with the death of the son. The plan continues through the resurrection when the Christ (the one anointed to deliver mankind) was seen alive, and on to you and me within whom Christ lives today. We have a significant part in the plan, for it is only by our invitation that Christ resides within. And even then, He matures only to the extent that we allow.

Jesus was born into this world as a baby. But it was not the baby Jesus who participated with God in the creation--it was Jesus, the Christ, who was one with God. The baby Jesus can mature within each of us to the Son who ruled with God, the Father. The growth of Jesus in us, is up to us, and Christmas can be the starting point.

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