CHRISTMAS, 2010 around our family tree
I LOVE December! The beginning of Christmas with shopping to the sounds of Christmas music in stores--especially the song, "Silver Bells." The mind-boggling decorations, more and more fantastic every year in yards and windows of homes. Downtown is AWESOME! There must be a million lights in the trees along Post Oak Drive.
Outside our homes, it was Jack's job to string lights around the roof and in the shrubs. I decorated every window and every room. Our children and grandchildren decorated our tree.
Christmas as we celebrate it today began about 175 years ago with Queen Victoria's reign, 1837-1901. Before this Victorian revival, Christmas was hardly celebrated at all: NO Christmas trees. NO greeting cards. NO presents. It was a time when lots of food was given to the poor, because of the big gap between the wealthy and less fortunate.
When I was a child in the 1920's and 30's, we made some decorations for our tree and lots of red and green chains from construction paper to loop around the top of the walls and from corner to corner across the living room ceiling. Our tree was always purchased on Christmas Eve when it cost 10 cents. Earlier, they cost 25 cents…too much to pay with a family of nine children. No gifts were wrapped or put under the tree until all the children were asleep. When we woke up on Christmas Day, there were toys sprinkled with artificial snow. We'd try to guess which one belonged to each of us, before our parents woke up to hand them out. Our stockings would be filled with hard candies, an orange and an apple. My first remembrance of Christmas was when I was about 5 years old. We rode in a Model T Ford to Alpine, Texas to my maternal grandmother's home. I followed my daddy out in snow up to my waist, walking to the barn to help gather the eggs for breakfast. In the front room of her house was a cedar Christmas tree cut from the forest. It had pretty little candles which were lighted just before we received our gifts.
Before Jesus was born, the Romans honored their god Saturn with festivities of drinking and making merry in late December.
The Celts and Vikings had winter solstice celebrations throughout Northern Europe called "Yuletide" with feasting and wassailing and toasting around the Yule log.
The Jewish people also feasted and lit candles in late December with the Feast of Lights called Hanukkah.
The early Christians wanted a midwinter date to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. It was in the 4th century that December 25th was chosen by simply adding nine months to the official date of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary on the 25th of March. The church decided that the 12 days of Christmas was to be a sacred but festive season between the nativity (birth of Jesus) and Epiphany (January 6 when the Magi revealed Jesus was a divine being).
However, throughout the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, the festivities were swayed by drinking, eating, gambling and general misbehaviour, which was unpopular with the church reformers. The Puritans regarded the wild and jolly times as blasphemous. There were plays performed mostly by about 8 men, basically dealing with the symbolic death of the earth by winter and its rebirth in the spring.
During the regime of Oliver Cromwell, an act of 1652 strictly forbade the observance of Christmas celebrations. Churches were locked and shops were required to stay open. Soldiers enforced the law, and anyone found celebrating Christmas, including priests, were arrested and imprisoned. People still celebrated, of course, but privately and very carefully.
Christmas was officially restored by the monarchy of Charles II in 1660. By this time, much of the vitality and joyousness of the occasion was lost, including singing of carols. Christmas was no longer regarded as something special or noteworthy. Never fully revived were the huge sumptuous feasts, exciting tournaments, or good fellowship -- UNTIL Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837. She and her husband, Prince Albert, popularized the custom of decorating a fir tree. St. Nicholas arrived, laden with gifts. Christmas cards were invented. Singing carols regained popularity. Turkey took over from serving beef. Board games were invented, and many industries sprang up to produce all the presents and novelties. By the time Queen Victoria died 64 years later, Christmas was a very different and very special occasion: a family festival centered on the hearth and home -- a holiday eagerly looked forward to and long prepared for…an occasion for the whole family. For the queen and prince, FAMILY was very important to them. They adored their children and saw Christmas as the ideal opportunity to set time aside to have fun with the family…feasting and playing games all day. Our family played Hide-and-Seek, Musical Chairs with a piano player, Blind Man's Bluff, Simon Says. At night, we played cards: "Hell", Bridge, Gin, Hearts, Spades. In 1942, Canasta was our family favorite.
Today, we can't imagine Christmas without Christmas cards and presents. Both were developed during this period. The cards first appeared in 1843. Many were handmade; some of needlework like cross stitching and quilling, as well as paintings. Boxes for gifts were also handmade.
At first, the gifts were only small tokens of candy, toys, fruit, nuts, almanacs, Bibles, books and needlework. Handmade gifts were preferable. This was true in my childhood. Most of the adult gifts were handmade by crocheting, tatting, embroidery. I made toys out of cigar boxes.
The Christian church took over many of the ancient customs; but most traditions had to be adapted to fit Christian ideas. The pagan Father Christmas became St. Nicholas, a "Spirit of Christmas." In 1880, the Americans created Santa Claus, mostly for commercial ends.
Only Matthew and Luke tell about the birth of Jesus Christ.
Bethlehem is five miles south of Jerusalem, a town in Palestine near where Jacob buried his wife, Rachel. For a long time, it was called "The City of David" because he was born there and there he was anointed as the future king by Samuel.
Joseph and Mary ("being great with child," expecting a baby) traveled 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem because both of them were from the lineage of David. Luke traces Joseph's lineage all the way down to Adam. Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that all the world must register in their own city for taxation. Bethlehem was over-crowded with travelers. When Mary and Joseph reached the Inn, all rooms were taken. The innkeeper offered them the stable.
Place Mary and Joseph in the stable
That night, Jesus was born. Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes -- long narrow bands of cloth. The Bible does not mention clothing of Mary, Joseph, or the wise men. Baby Jesus was put in a manger which is a stall with hay from which cattle were fed. Poor travelers or those excluded from rooms in the Inn would share these humble quarters with their animals. The Bible does not mention any animals present in the stable when Jesus was born.
Place Jesus in the manger in the stable.
Angels are spiritual and super human beings as messengers of God. They appeared most frequently with the coming and ministry of Jesus. According to His teachings, they are personal, sinless, immortal beings existing in great numbers (72,000 ? above the cross?). Denial of the existence of angels, the devil and his demons, springs from the unbelieving spirit of men who also deny the existence of God. Angels are superior to men, created a little lower than the angels. We MAY become as angels of God in Heaven, our exalted destiny. The Sadducees asked Jesus if a man has more than one wife, which wife will be his in Heaven. Jesus said, "In the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven (Matthew 22:30) and Psalm 8:5, "Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour."
Place Angels in the scene
It is a terrible shame to be indifferent about a person's conviction to be saved, pledging their life to serving Jesus who speaks in Luke 15:10, "I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
Paul says in Hebrews 1:14, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" Doesn't this mean we all have a guardian angel? Angels give a wonderful attractiveness to that unseen world to which we are heading.
An angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the field as they guarded the sheep. Suddenly a multitude of the heavenly host began praising God; then, returned to heaven.
Place shepherds and sheep in the scene.
The shepherds said one to another, "Let us now go and see this thing which is come to pass." And they hurried to Bethlehem and found Jesus. They spread the news all around the town as they returned to the sheep, praising and glorifying God.
The 23rd Psalm is perhaps the most comforting chapter in the Bible. Just 6 verses, yet it touches all our problems, comforts all our misfortunes. "The Lord is my Shepherd." The Shepherd knows all his sheep, calling them by name as they enter the fold at night. If ONE is missing, he goes out in the darkness, searching, until he finds it. He leads them to running streams of water or to troughs attached to wells. He guards the entrance of the fold all night. He shows tenderness toward the young and feeble -- all explained in the Scriptures. Many times I have received great comfort from the words of Jesus in John 10:27-30, as He is our Shepherd:
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one."
The wise men followed the star in the east from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where it stopped and "stood over where the young child was."
Place wise men in the scene
MANY OF OUR CUSTOMS ARE NOT BIBLICAL. We give presents on Christmas day because the wise men brought gifts to baby Jesus. The Bible does NOT say there were three wise men. They brought three gifts. The Bible does not say the Magi (called priests or wise men) came to the stable where Jesus was born. Our custom puts them there.
The Scriptures indicate that Jesus was now two years of age. Mary and Joseph were still in Bethlehem. It says the star which the Magi were following stopped over a house where Jesus and his parents were living. The Magi first had asked King Herod, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" He didn't know what they were talking about. He called together all the chief priests and scribes and demanded an explanation. They quoted prophesy from the Old Testament to him. King Herod asked the Magi to return to Jerusalem and tell him where Jesus was so he also could go worship Him.
After the Magi saw Jesus, God warned them not to return to Herod because Herod planned to kill Baby Jesus, a threat to the king's position. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt because Herod will destroy Jesus. The family fled that night. When Herod realized the wise men were not returning, he ordered all baby boys from two years old and under to be killed.
The Bible does not say the shepherds brought any sheep with them when they went into the city of Bethlehem searching for this baby Jesus that the angels told them about.
The last mention of JOSEPH in the Bible is when the family (he, Mary and Jesus) made the trip from their home in Nazareth to Jerusalem for the annual Feast of the Passover, when Jesus was 12.
Mary is with Jesus at a wedding in John 2:3 when Jesus turns water into wine; at the cross in John 19:26 when Jesus saw John standing beside her and He said, "Woman, behold thy son" to take care of her Acts 1 records the last mention was after Jesus appeared before 120 people on the mountain in Jerusalem, speaking to them; then being taken up in a cloud out of their sight. A large group of people went to an upper room in the city for "prayer and supplica- tion, with the women, and MARY the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren" (Acts 1:14).
The Catholic church pray to Mary and worship her as a perpetual virgin -- the offspring of the false notion of the superior sanctity of celibacy. All religions have their own bible. I would guess the Catholics do not have Matthew 13: 54-56 in it, which reads: "And when He (Jesus) was come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?"
YOU MAY NOW OPEN THE GREEN CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Everyone should have a "Family Bible". This is my third one! I love this one, written in our language, by my favorite translation by William Tyndale, "Father of the English Bible" --easy to read. They sell for $169.95, plus tax, at Christian Book Stores! Because I ordered 10 of them out of California, I got a nice discount and no sales tax! I LOVE this book. The first 120 pages are instructional to leave you with NO DOUBT that this Bible is the inspired Word of God. Then the Old and New Testaments are written, followed by another 168 pages of God inspired Biblical information. William Tyndale gave his life for us to have this translation from the original Greek and Hebrew (His picture on page 8). This Bible claims to be written in its original order. Therefore, you'll have to check the index to find certain Scriptures.
It is a documented historical fact that Jesus was the Son of God and His miracles and instructions are truly recorded -- never denied by any person that ever met Him.
Many people have wondered, "How do you know which religion or "bible" is the RIGHT one? Just read the history of those other religions. You'll discover men who disappeared for a while, then returned to announce they have been away with God (giving Him another name) and instructed to re-write the Bible! People fall for this line. Then comes the day when the false prophets die, and their bones remain in a grave.
After Jesus died on the cross, He was buried in a cave with a huge rock blocking the entrance, and guards on duty all night. There was a great earthquake and the angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it. You know the rest as the Easter story! The ministry of Jesus continued forty days, all recorded, before He ascended heavenward in a cloud.
John 14:26, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit: "The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Those who wrote the Holy Bible did so with the help of the Holy Spirit.
At Wanda's suggestion, let us all turn to the Christmas story in Matthew l: verses18-25, and read it together as a family for the first time to read this family Bible -- It's about 2/3rds from the front of the Book on Page 960.
> December 2010 - Christmas at our house