Church Family Newsletter | December 23, 2022
I have a friend who has capitulated in the war with secular society to make Christmas an accurate celebration of the birth of Jesus. The forces of secularism and commercialism, not to mention the influence of Hollywood and social media, have become so overwhelming that he feels we are not only fighting a losing battle, but we are potentially squandering precious resources in a conflict that will drown out all voices of reason and ignore inconvenient facts about the season. My friend is one of a long line of sincere Christians who have questioned the excesses of the season. He has not given up celebration Christ’s birth, however, and I will reveal his solution and strategy at the end of this column!
In the UK on 19 December 1643, an ordinance was passed encouraging subjects to treat the mid-winter period 'with the more solemn humiliation because it may call to remembrance our sins, and the sins of our forefathers, who have turned this feast, pretending the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him, by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights' - wow!
The rejection of Christmas as a joyful period was reiterated when a 1644 ordinance confirmed the abolition of the feasts of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun, and from this point until the Restoration in 1660, Christmas was officially illegal. In the USA, because of the Puritan influence of the early settlers, the celebration of Christmas was actually banned in Boston, MA from 1659 until 1681!
Neither my friend nor I would propose or support such radical measures today to force our society to acknowledge and accept the fact that the creator of the universe intervened in the lives of ordinary people in such an extraordinary way. But it is important that the traditions and commercial depictions of the event do not supplant the facts as we know them! So to quote Sgt Joe Friday from the 1950’s TV show “Dragnet”, “give us the facts, ma’am”!
Fact: Jesus was not born on December 25th in the year zero A.D.
There is no scriptural justification for this particular date being Jesus’ birthday. The date actually comes from the scholar Hippolytus of Rome, who determined it early in the third century, assuming that the conception of Jesus took place at the Spring equinox, which he placed on March 25. He then added nine months, taking advantage of winter festivals that were already celebrated around that time. There are a number of errors in this reasoning, the least of which is that the human gestation cycle is actually 40 or 41 weeks, which would put Jesus’s birth sometime in mid-January. Not only that, but Luke makes a specific reference to shepherds grazing their sheep in the fields, which took place only in the warmer months of the year. December 25 wasn’t celebrated as Christmas until at least the fourth century A.D. when it became a vehicle to deter Christians from celebrating the pagan winter solstice. As for the year, both the Gospels of Luke and Matthew place his birth around the time King Herod the Great died. As most scholars agree, this took place in 4 BC, which would put Jesus’s birth around that time, possibly as late as 6 BC.
Fact: The Three Wise Men did not visit the place where Jesus was born and worship with the shepherds.
Tradition holds that three Eastern Kings, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, followed a star to the manger where the infant Jesus was resting. However, this is false from both a historical and scriptural point of view. In the Bible, the “three magi” were wise men, not kings. Their names, origins, and ethnicities are never mentioned, and what’s often glossed over is that the Gospels say they visited Jesus as a young child at home with his mother - not as an infant in the manger. Their names weren’t introduced into the Christmas mythos until a 6th-century mosaic in Italy called them by their three popular names.
Fact: There was no “choir” of angels singing to the shepherds (and certainly not in Latin!)
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” Luke 2:13-14 KJV. That is, there was a large number of heavenly beings speaking words which the shepherds could understand, almost certainly in Aramaic — no mention of music or singing!
Space constrains me in pointing out a large number of common Christmas “facts” that are not supported by scripture — for example, let me know if you find a scripture reference to support the notion that Mary rode from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey!
What the scripture does support is that in fulfillment of prophecy, the Creator of the Universe became one of us by being born as a helpless child to an impoverished family in dire circumstances. This child grew to manhood and became a willing sacrifice for all of mankind. In the ultimate triumph, he rose from death and lives on today in those who accept Him as savior. The actual date of his birth is inconsequential but has been adopted by society as a useful distraction from the true meaning and consequences of his life, death, and resurrection.
My friend no longer fights the Christmas (TM) revelries but instead designates a Sunday in January which he calls “Jesusmas” to invite family, friends, and acquaintances to worship the risen savior and read and wonder at the nativity story as presented in Scripture, free from the trappings and pressures of the Holiday Season.
Many of the Christmas carols we sing have suspect theology, but I believe the last verse of ‘O little town of Bethlehem” gets it exactly right:
“O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray,
cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Immanuel!”
It is my prayer that the Christ child is born in you today.
Blessings on you and yours!
This will take you to Jim Black's collection of articles since starting the newsletter.
Christmas: Just in Time!
Note: Today’s devotional is offered as a resource that you can use with your family to help make the most of the Christmas season focus.
"But when the right time came, God sent his son, born of a woman, subject to the Law." –Galatians 4:4 (NLT)
Most of us have our traditions when it comes to Christmas gift opening. Some families open their gifts on Christmas Eve. Some families open their gifts on Christmas morning. Some spread out their gift opening over several days to extend the enjoyment. Regardless of when you open your Christmas presents, you likely feel that you have the “right moment.”
It’s fascinating to me that God’s gift to us, the birth of His son Jesus, when God became human, was just at the right moment. Not a moment too early; not a moment too late, “But when the right time came,” the Scripture reveals.
Thankfully, we have the certainty of Scriptures, that Jesus did come; that He lived among us; that He died for our sins; that He conquered death and rose again. We have the benefit of those Christ-followers who have gone before us, passing down to us the assurance of Jesus’ life and ministry among us. We share in the legacy of what God has done in human history and continues to do during our time. We are a part of His ongoing story in the world.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel
(from O come, O come, Emmanuel)
We celebrate Christmas as the time to remember and give thanks for Jesus, who came “just in time!”
Use the content below to engage your family in a discussion about Jesus’ birth as being “just in time.” Then together, plan a family “just in time” project. Think of people in your world (relatives, friends, neighbors) who have specific needs. Discuss these and decide on one person whose need you believe you can meet. Then, devise a plan for your family to meet that need. For example, there might be an elderly neighbor who can’t do fall clean up on their yard. Your family can set a date and go over to the home and do some leaf raking. When you meet the need, be sure to tell the person that you are helping out as a way to celebrate Jesus, whose birth was “just in time.”
- If Jesus had not come when He did, but was born during our time, do you think you would recognize Him? Why or why not?
- What part have other people had in helping you to connect (and/or keep you connected) to Jesus?
- Thank one of these people this week.
Jim Liebelt, HomeWord Daily Devotional for 12/23/2022
If you are able to make it out, you are invited to the Christmas Eve Service which takes part at 7 PM. It shouldn't be more than an hour. And you will go home with a .. (can't tell you). You'll have to attend and find out for yourselves.
Christmas Sunday the Service will start at its normal time of 11 AM. The children are welcome to wear their pajamas to church. (I even hear a few "older kids" are wearing the pajamas too. I am okay with that - as long as they are appropriate. Children can bring one of their gifts to the church for "show and tell" too.
This Week's Schedule
- 11:00 AM - Christmas Sunday Worship Service - Chapel
- Monday, December 26th
- Tuesday, December 27th
- Friday, December 30th
There are no corps programs during the week. And the food pantry is closed for the next two weeks.
There will be a New Year's Day Sunday Service. Captain Larry Carmichael will lead the service while the Joneses will be down in Pasadena for the Rose Parade.
Click here to share your requests. Requests will be prayed for in our Prayer Room and distributed through our Prayer Chain. Requests can be made anonymously.
Words of Farewell
I just want to say thank you to all the Corps members. For being so welcoming. For allowing me to participate in the band and songsters. For supporting me as I’ve been learning and honing some skills.
Through all the times that things got crazy, and during the times that I felt like I didn’t have energy left, God gave me the officers, the staff, and the corps members of the Concord Corps to keep me going.
I’ve heard of cadets getting extremely attached to their winter and summer assignment corps. I can say that I am attached to the Concord Corps, and I will always look back on this experience with nothing but joy. So, thank you.
As I said last Sunday, it’s never really “goodbye” in The Salvation Army. It’s just “see you later.”
Cadet Sean Pease
Christmas Caroling at the Red Kettle
TLP Christmas Breakfast
CAMEO Bell Ringer Goodie Bags Project
Junior Soldier Rally
The theme for the rally is National Parks! All Prospective and current Junior Soldiers are invited to attend.
Event: Junior Soldier Rally
When: January 28, 2023
Time: 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM (Check-in starts at 9:30 AM in the Chapel Lobby)
Where: Sacramento Citadel Corps
Who: 7-14 years old
Cost: $15.00 (lunch included)
Registration is due Friday, January 20, so please let Major Ann know if you are interested in going. We plan to leave the corps at 8:00 AM.
You can make a tithe payment, give an offering, or donate towards the World Services fund.