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Summary: The church, not city hall, department stores or governments, is charged with witnessing to the gospel, and reminding the world the reason for the birth of Jesus.

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YES VIRGINIA, THERE IS A RESURRECTION

Pastor Rick MacDonald December 17, 2000

1 Corinthians 15:14 - and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.

Introduction:

We should have come to realize a long time ago that Christmas is not ruled from Jerusalem or Rome—but from a place ruled by a god called Mammon. Some disgruntled believers—maybe even misguided—do battle with various courthouses and City Halls which no longer display a Nativity Scene on their lawns. Sometimes, outsiders look at our own dilemma more accurately than we can. Listen to an excerpt of an article written last Christmas by Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman.

“... There is nothing wrong with sleigh bells, Bing Crosby and Christmas pudding, but I should hope Christians would want more than just that, and as Christmas becomes more and more secularized, I am not sure they get it. In the end, the problem of Christmas is not mine any more than Christmas itself is. The real Christmas challenge belongs to Christians: how to take Christmas out of the secularized public domain and move it back into the religious sphere once again.”

The rabbi is right on both counts. For Christians, Christmas definitely loses something, in fact, loses its core, as it gets more and more worldly. But the solution is not to worry over the worlds view of Christmas. The real Christmas challenge belongs to Christians. The church, not city hall, department stores or governments, is charged with witnessing to the gospel, and reminding the world the reason for the birth of Jesus.

TRADITIONS OF CHRISTMAS ARE CLOAKED IN MYSTERY:

Much about Christmas remains veiled and puzzling. It harbors a mystery of faith and has a rather checkered history.

▸ For more than 300 years after Jesus’ time, Christians celebrated his resurrection but not his birth.

▸ The observance of His birth first begin in fourth-century Rome, timed to coincide with a midwinter pagan festival honoring the imperial army’s sun god, Mithra. The December date was taken over to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

▸ What day he was born and even the precise year is uncertain. However, it was not in the year 1 A.D., as the calendar’s Anno Domini (Year of the Lord) suggests. This dating system was derived in the sixth-century from calculations which had an error. Scholars since have calculated that Jesus’ birth came in about 6 or 7 B.C., meaning paradoxically "Before Christ". The revised time was determined partly by Herod the Great ruling Judea when Jesus was born and history records that Herod died in 4 B.C., which would have been three years before Jesus was born.

▸ In what month the birth occurred, or on what day, has been a matter of speculation for centuries. A British physicist and astronomer, David Hughes, has calculated that the date was September 17, 7 B.C., based on various scientific evidence, including that of a conjunction of two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, in the constellation Pisces on that date. He concludes in his book that this extraordinary celestial display was the "star" seen by the distant wise men.


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