Christmas was once banned in Boston because the Puritans said it was a festival borrowed from the pagans. It survived that onslaught to become for us the most magical time of the year. Probably no other time in the calendar is as deeply rooted in our emotions. The cribs, the holly, the ornaments, the carols, visits back home, Santa Claus, the gift-giving surprises and the feasting, all these catch our memory and imagination when they are at their most fresh and never really lets them go again. People who know nothing else about Jesus know he was born on 25th December.
But was he? Or does it matter?
The Da Vinci Code and documentary movies like Zeitgeist are fond of saying say that, suspiciously, Adonis, Dionysius and Osiris were also all born on 25 December. What they didn't say is that the birthdays of gods such as Dionysius and Osiris had been moved to 25 December from their previous mid-summer dates by the Emperor Aurelian, and only in the late third century AD. So if the 25 December birthday of Jesus was borrowed, it certainly wasn't borrowed from there.
Many Christians will probably be surprised to know that during the debates about celebrating Christmas in the third century Church, eight dates during six different months were proposed as the birthday of Jesus, such as January 6, April 2, April 21, May 1, September 11, and of course December 25. One group who felt birthdays were for pagan gods were intensely opposed to observing the feast at all. The 25 December date was one of the last to be proposed and there is no certitude that it is the correct one. In our calendar the Winter Solstice occurs on 21 December, but in the Julian Calendar in use at that time 25 December was the date of the solstice.
The preoccupation we have with birthdays today is a relatively new phenomenon. Up to the time when the registering of births became obligatory it was quite common for people not to know the precise day, month, or even year in which they were born. In any case most of the historical focus in ancient times tended to be on the day a person died, particularly within Christianity.
The early Christians apparently forgot when Jesus was born, or more likely never knew it in the first place. It didn't seem to be a priority since generally they were far more interested in other aspects of his life. While there is evidence that individuals were trying to figure out when Christ was born during the second and third centuries the actual liturgical celebration of his birth seems to have been very much an afterthought. The earliest record we have of the celebration of Christmas in the West comes from more than 300 years after the passion of Jesus, and in the East a century later. It was not until 350 AD that Julius I fixed the date as 25 December. At that stage it was obviously far too late to consult anyone who might have known what the correct date was and some of the earliest Christian writers were completely against the 25 December date.
Iraeneus, who was born about a century after the time of Jesus, notes that Jesus was born in the 41st. year of the reign of Augustus. Augustus became Emperor in the Autumn of 43 BC, which might indicate Jesus was born in the autumn of 2 BC. The great Church historian Eusebius (+340) dates the birth of Jesus to the 42nd year of the reign of Augustus (autumn of 2 BC to autumn of 1 BC) and 28 years from the defeat of Anthony and Cleopatra The defeat of Anthony and Cleopatra and the annexation of Egypt into the Roman Empire occurred in the autumn of 30 BC, so the 28th year would extend from the autumn of 3 BC to the autumn of 2 BC. If we take both of these witnesses together the date of the birth of Jesus supported by both Iraeneus and Eusebius would be 2 BC, probably in the autumn.
Five hundred years were to pass before there was any other substantial and official attempt to fix the year of the birth of Jesus, and even then it was not the primary intent of the man who did it. The Pope of the day, John I, was concerned that various branches of Christianity were celebrating Christianity's central feast of Easter, or Christian Passover, at different times of the year, and he wanted a system that would give an accurate calculation of when the feast occurred so that a standard date could be used throughout Christendom. (Presumably it would also save him the embarrassment of having to ask the Jews for an accurate date as they had been calculating Passover with some degree of success for well over a millennium at that point. Of course if he had done that we would never have had the Christian era and we would be sending out our Christmas cards this year with the date 1725).
Pope John entrusted the task of calculating Easter to a learned Scythian monk, Dionysius Exiguus, (+ c. 544 AD), who was a noted scripture scholar and canon lawyer as well as abbot of a Roman monastery. Dionysius did establish what he considered an accurate date for Easter, with little practical effect apparently since fifteen hundred years later the various branches of Christianity are still celebrating Easter at different times. But a by-product of Dionysius' Easter work was the invention of the Christian Era.
The calendar in use in Rome at the time of John I was not, as you might expect, the Julian Calendar, introduced by the reform of Julius Caesar in 45 BC, which had New Year's Day on 1 January, but an adaptation of the Egyptian system, called the calendar of Diocletian. Diocletian decided to establish a new calendar to be based on the year he became Emperor, 284 AD. August 29th. was fixed as New Year's Day. This had been the old Egyptian New Year's Day in the Calendar of Alexandria because the Egyptians believed it to have been the day the world was created. All events in Europe up to the sixth century were dated using the Diocletian calendar. The Coptic Christians of Egypt use the Egyptian Calendar to the present day and are now in the year 1725.
Any reasonably well-informed person can probably name ten or twelve calendars that they have heard of, other than the one based on the birth of Jesus. The Jewish, the Islamic, the Mayan, the Egyptian, the Julian, the Babylonian, the French, the Greek, the Hebrew, the Chinese and the Persian are just some of the better known. All these calendars begin their count from some happening considered to be of great importance. For example the Jewish Calendar calculates its era from Sunday, 6 October 3,761 BC, at 11.11 p.m. plus 20 seconds: the moment it believed the creation occurred.
Dionysius Exiguus also wanted to base his new calendar on a significant date - what for him was the most significant date in all of history: the birth of Christ, but of course at that stage nobody knew for sure when it had taken place.
The "Integral Age"
Related to this is a key factor which explains how early Christians came to believe 25 December was the day of Christ's birth: the Jewish notion of the "integral age." This belief was widespread in first century Judaism though it is not mentioned in the bible, and it has totally vanished from the awareness of Christians today: it asserts that the great prophets all died on the same dates as their birth or conception. So if, as it was believed by the Diocletian calendar, the Creation had been made by God on 25 March, then it would be most appropriate that Jesus as Son of God would conceived on the same day as the Creation occurred. Dionysius reasoned that if Jesus was conceived on Creation Day, March 25, then he would be born nine months later, on 25 December. The 'integral age' theory would also mean he died on 25 March, which approximated the date of the Crucifixion. It was probably this factor rather than any accommodation with pagan deities that first popularized the 25 December date in Christianity.
Dionysius had some precedent for the 25 December date because Emperor Aurelian in 274 had declared December 25 a feast in honor of the Sun God Mithras. Sixty one years later the Christians (in 335 AD), probably in opposition, began to celebrate the birth of Christ on the same day. Christians in Antioch began to celebrate the birth of Jesus on 6 January, as they still do in some of the Orthodox Churches to this day. But the Egyptians Christians did not celebrate Christmas at all until 430 AD. In any event there is no evidence earlier than 335 AD that Christmas was celebrated at all by anyone, on 25 December or any other date.
Many believe that the legendary Anglican divines John Lightfoot and Archbishop James Ussher of Ireland were to first to try to date the origins of the world; instead of the traditional March 25th date Lightfoot had calculated that the creation had taken place on 23 October 4004 BC at 9.00 a.m.! Ussher's famous book was published in 1650 and his dates for the creation and fall of mankind were even inserted into the margins of the Authorized Version of the English Bible (the so-called and mis-named King James version) where they soon became regarded as almost on a par with the biblical text itself. In fact Lightfoot and Ussher were not pioneers but were only following a well established series of doomed attempts to try to date the beginnings of everything from the facts in the Bible or other ancient sagas.
Working backwards from the Date of the Passion
Some of the data for the birth of Jesus have come as a by-product of establishing the date of his passion. Again there is a problem with the Gospel dating as the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke seem to place the Crucifixion on Passover day itself after Jesus had eaten the Passover meal the previous evening. The Gospel of John however locates it on the eve of Passover. The tradition of the early Church followed John in accepting that the Crucifixion would have taken place on the 14th day of the Jewish month Nisan. It should be noted that the only dates in this period on which the Crucifixion could have taken place are 7 April 30 or 3 April 33, as these are the only two dates in that time period when the eve of Passover was on a Friday. That would mean Jesus at the time of the Crucifixion was between 33-36 years old.
Historical and Biblical Witnesses
Dionysius calculated that up to his day it had been 525 years since the conception of Jesus. How exactly he arrived at that number he did not explain. He stated the birth of Jesus took place in the year 753 after the foundation of Rome. The next year (754 AUC) he named year 1 AD in the new system and so the Christian Era or Anno Domini was born. Dionysius had no year 0. The number naught (0) only came to Rome from Arabia and India two hundred years later.
There was at least one major flaw in the calendar of Dionysius. We know from the work of the legendary Jewish historian Josephus that Herod the Great was still alive when Jesus was born. It used to be very commonly asserted that Josephus stated Herod had died in what would be our year 4 BC so that Jesus would have had to be born before that. However while this certainly corresponds to the date in the printed versions of Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews a consultation of the manuscript sources in the possession of the British Library in London, and the Library of Congress, shows that
1 Jewish Festivals such as Hanukkah are believed to fall on different dates each year. That is not so. In the Jewish calendar they fall on the same date every year. It is in the Gregorian Calendar, which is now the world's most widely used calendar, that they fall on different dates, because the Gregorian calendar takes no account of the moon's cycles. The moon revolves around the earth approximately every twenty nine and a half days. The Jewish calendar rounds off that figure in alternative months so that Jewish months are 29 or 30 days, corresponding to the moon's cycles. The earth revolves around the sun every 12.4 lunar months. Jewish years are correspondingly also rounded off into either 12 or 13 months lengths, corresponding to this 12.4 month solar cycle. The names of the Jewish months are Babylonian in origin, brought back from there when the Hebrews returned from exile. Reflecting this the Old Testament prefers to refer to the months by number not by name. The first month of the Jewish year is Nisan, when Passover occurs, but the number of the year is changed, not in Nisan, but in the seventh month of the year, Tishri. Two different starting points for the year may at first sight appear confusing, but it is somewhat similar to the our custom of referring to 'the school year' or "the financial year" as well as 'the calendar year.' They are different starting points of the year for different purposes.
there was a transcribing error while the typesetting was in progress. The manuscripts indicate a date corresponding to 1 BC for the death of Herod but the typesetter mistakenly entered what corresponded to 4 BC in the printed versions. It has become quite common in recent years to read statements in popular journals that Jesus had to be born in 4 BC or earlier because of the mistaken Josephus reference. As a result of this recent discovery in the Josephus manuscripts it seems we can conclude that Jesus was born in 3 or 2 BC but certainly no later than 1 BC.
St. Luke's Gospel seems to indicate that the fifteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius (27-28 AD) was the year when Jesus began his public ministry. If he began it at thirty years of age that would put the date of his birth in 3 BC. This date seems to be supported by the incidents narrated in the second chapter of St. Luke, when Jesus was presented in the Temple 40 days after his birth. From the descriptions Luke uses it has been suggested that Jesus was presented in the Temple on the Festival of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the tenth day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, Tishri. The Jewish six month Elul normally had 29 days. If so Mary's 40 days of purification after the birth of Jesus would have begun on the first day of the Jewish sixth month, Elul, which would give a birth date for Jesus in our calendar of September 11th, 3 BC.
Another line of information could be based on St. Luke's reference to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5) who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. There were 24 priestly divisions who served in the Temple (it was from these plus the family of Jesus that the famous bloodlines are said to have begun). Abijah was the eighth division, and its term of service would have begun in early June that year. If in accordance with the Angel's message to Zachariah that day, John was conceived soon afterwards, he would have been born in the following March, and if Jesus was six months younger, as Luke states, then Jesus would have been born in September.
We could also take the opposite direction and count back the periods of priestly divisions' service from the time of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD when we know the priestly division of Jehoiarib was in service, Abijah would have served in the first week of October, not June, which would indicate a birth date for Jesus in December or January. That assumes of course that the terms of priestly service remained regular and fixed over the intervening seventy years.
Is there any further evidence that could help us pinpoint the year of his birth with any more accuracy? One item of significance here may be the "Star" which the Gospel of St. Matthew states guided the Magi to the place where the child was born at Bethlehem, and representations of which are a standard nowadays in all Christmas decorations. None of the other three Gospels mention a star or Magi and only Luke a nativity scene at all. As a result many scholars have suggested that the story may not be historical but was a fiction created by the author of the Gospel of Matthew to convey the significance of the birth.
Many believe the Star was an extraordinary sign given by God to herald the birth, but that it was within the course of nature, and not then a miraculous happening. Various suggestions have been made by this school of thought to explain what the Star may have been in astronomical terms, a planet, a comet, a meteor, a supernova, or a conjunction of planets? If it was a miracle then no information could be gained from astronomy. (The story has also been interpreted in astrological terms). It would be hard to imagine the Star fulfilling what the Gospel of Matthew tells us it did were it a nova, comet or meteor. We are told that Herod had to ask the Magi what the sign was, which is hardly likely if it had been a striking public event such as any of those.
However it is interesting to note that certain extraordinary things were in fact happening in the skies of the period in which we are interested, 3-2 BC. In the days of the pioneering astronomers such as Brahe and Kepler the calculation of the position of the planets and stars at any particular moment in history was a long and arduous task. Nowadays using modern astronomy software anyone can compute an accurate model of the night sky for any place on the face of the earth at any moment in history or forward into the future. In September of 3 BC at the start of the Judaic New Year Rosh ha-Shanah, the planet Jupiter (the kingly planet), which is 300 times more massive than the earth, began to move into conjunction with the star Regulus (the kingly star). Because we are observing the movement of the planets from earth, which is itself a moving platform, the motion of the planets can at times give the illusion of reversing their course. Astronomers call this illusion "retrograde motion."
After Jupiter came into conjunction with Regulus in 3 BC it later went into retrograde motion with the result that it soon conjoined with Regulus a second time. More remarkably still it then conjoined with Regulus a third time, which is a rare and striking astrological occurrence.
Jupiter travelled away from Regulus but then conjoined with Venus on 17 June in 2 BC, so that the two planets appeared to come together one on top of the other in the shape of a luminous figure eight which is a very rare and awe inspiring sight. If these conjunctions, or one of them, were in fact the Star of Bethlehem was it marking a significant birth in September 3 BC or on 17 June 2 BC nine months later?
The Midwinter Festival and Christmas.
It's become very common of late to say that Christmas was chosen by the Christians to compete with the pagan Saturnalia festival celebrated on 25 December. In fact it seems that Saturnalia was originally celebrated on 17 December but over the years gradually extended to a week-long celebration ending on 23 December. It was not until 274 AD that Emperor Aurelian moved the celebration of Saturnalia to December 25, so if Christians were trying to co-opt the festival they probably would have chosen 17 December or some date within the following week, but not the 25th.
An old time pagan celebrating Saturnalia would probably have to make quite a stretch to feel at home with the modern Christmas celebration, but there was another Winter Solstice festival from which the modern Christmas has directly imported most of its symbols and customs: Yuletide, which was a northern European festival that stretches back into the mists of time. Unlike his Roman counterpart the old pagan from northern Europe would fit right in with the modern Christmas. All the elements of Yule are there; the holly, the ivy, the mistletoe, the tree and the mysterious bearer of gifts for children.
If you lived in northern Europe a thousand years ago you had to get used to the sun rising about 9 a.m. at the time of the winter solstice and setting again about six hours later. It is difficult to sleep right through eighteen hours of darkness, so you probably spent at least ten hours each day coping with the absence of light. Almost all fo the Yuletide traditions focus on dealing with the darkness and the perils it was believed it brought, and looking forward to the return of light and heat.
In this culture all the evergreen trees, particularly the holly, the ivy and the yew, were prized as symbols of life and re-birth. Because of its poisonous vegetation the yew became confined to burial places, but the holly was welcomed as a protector, particularly from evil spirits, presumably because of its fierce thorns. The ivy was a powerful symbol of eternal life in many pagan religions, particularly Druidism.
The ancient Chinese used holly extensively for decoration during their new year festival in February, but its believed the Druids used holly, which they considered sacred, in their religious rites long before it became accepted in Europe. It was used extensively to decorate the fireplaces, doors and windows, or any place where entry to the home was a possibility for evil spirits. The English settlers brought the custom to the United States. In Wales it was believed that bringing holly into the house before Christmas Eve would cause quarrels; and since holly trees come in sexes, the male tree having no berries, the Germans and the English believed that whether female or male holly branches were used to decorate the house on Christmas Eve was a portent of whether the husband or wife would dominate in the home during the coming year.
It was customary among the Celts and also the ancient Scandanavians to plant a holly tree near their homes to protect from lightening. It's significant that modern experiment have shown that holly wood is a much better conductor of electricity into the ground than most other woods.
The solstice evergreen tree is also buried in the mists of time. A small literary elite in nineteenth century England specializing in children's literature was largely responsible for introducing Christmas tree rituals into England. It even became a popular belief that Queen Victoria was responsible for introducing the tree into England, inspired by the culture of her German husband Prince Albert. That could not be historical as the Christmas tree had already been introduced into England in the reign of King George III, when the custom seems to have been confined to the Royal Family It seems it was about this time that the practice of bringing the Christmas tree indoors began. What is not usually remembered is that the Christmas trees in Europe were originally hung upside down; an odd reminiscence of the Tree of Sephiroth of the Kabbalah; the tree with its roots in the heavens.
Closely allied to the tree in Germanic pagan origins, and not much less treasured, is the Yule Log which has become immortalized in a multitude of Christmas carols and is probably a survival of the ancient log fire festival of the winter solstice.
The most romantic of all Christmas customs is hanging the mistletoe, again a practice buried in pagan antiquity. The plant was sacred to the Norse and the Celts. Since the plant has no roots it was believed it grew from heaven and had magical healing properties to cure almost any disease, but particularly the restoration of fertility.
It is from Scandanavia that the custom of kissing under the mistletoe came. In an ancient Norse legend Frigga, the goodess of love and beauty had a beloved son, Balder, who was cherished by all. Frigga went all through nature to make sure that nothing on earth could harm Balder. But she overlooked one plant, the mistletoe. Loki, the god of Evil, hated her son and knowing the goodess had neglected to ask the mistletoe not to harm Bader he made an arrow from mistletoe wood and had Bader's blind brother shoot it into his brother to kill him. For three days all the other living creatures tried to raise Balder back to life but failed. Eventually Frigga won over the mistletoe to help her and together they revived her son. Her tears of gratitude fell on the plant and became white berries. She blessed it so that everyone who stood under the mistletoe henceforward would be protected, and was entitled to a kiss as a token of that love and preservation from evil and all harm.
Gift giving at the time of deepest darkness is also a very ancient custom. In Scandanavia it was the Yule Goat carries the Yule Elf to deliver gifts at the solstice. The Germans had two gift givers at that time of year, Knecht Ruprecht (also called Der Weihnachtsmann - The Christmas Man) and Sankt Nikolaus (or Der Nikolaus). The bigger gifts were given at Christmas, the lesser gifts on the feast of St. Nicholas on 6 January, one of the earlier candidates for Christmas Day.
Saint Nicholas (SanNiklaus) of Myra, a fourth century bishop from Kale in modern Turkey, is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus and of course is the root derivation of the modern name. Little is known about him but a much embellished biography written by Simon Metaphrastes in the 10th century filled in what details were lacking.
During a time of famine one legend tells of a butcher luring three boys to his house and killing them while they slept. He cut them up and placed the pieces in a barrel of salt, intending to sell their bodies for food. Having been told of this monstrous act Nicholas hurried to the butchers shop, confronted him and raised the three boys back to life again.
But Nicholas above all was famous for his generosity to the poor, and his most memorable act was giving dowries to three poor daughters of a saintly Christian father, so that they would not have to become prostitutes to survive. He dropped three bags of gold for the daughters down the chimney of the father's house. One variation of the story tells that one of the daughters had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking. Nicholas also had a reputation for putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.
Just over a thousand years ago the Italian city of Bari wanted to acquire something for their town that would provide a bailout for the local economy, and get them in on to the lucrative pilgrimage trade. St. Nicholas of Myra had such appeal in the early middle ages that the citizens of Bari were convinced he was the answer to their problems. They put together a military expedition, located the tomb of SanNiklaus at Myra, and straightaway the gift giving of Nicholas took on a new form. The Italian merchants beat up the monks who were custodians of the tomb, desecrated the sarcophagus, and looted the corpse and the precious stones and metals with which it was decorated. A basilica was erected to house the loot back at Bari and the town became a great centre of pilgrimage, thus amply defraying the costs of the expedition. The body of SanNiklaus remains at Bari to this day, while back in his ruined church at Myra only one religious service per year is now held, on his feast day December 6th.
In addition to his part time job as Santa Claus, Nicholas of Myra has also served as patron saint of such diverse groups as children, archers, sailors, seafarers, pawnbrokers and of the cities of Amsterdam and Moscow.
But not all of the roots of Father Christmas were Christian; many of the rituals associated with the chief god of Norse paganism, Odin, have also been inherited by the modern conglomerate of Santa Claus. At the time of the Yule Festival, Odin, with his long white beard, was supposed to lead a great hunting party through the heavens, riding an eight legged horse called Sleipnir across the winter sky. On that night children would place their boots filled with straw, carrots and sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, and Odin would reward them by bringing gifts or candy down the chimney to replace Sleipnir's food which the children had left.
This custom eventually came to the United States with the original Dutch settlers before the seizure by the British in the 17th century, and evolved into the custom of hanging long socks beside the fireplace on Christmas Eve.
The Bottom Line.
Some events are chosen to take place on dates that already have a very special significance. Barack Obama for instance very consciously timed his initiatives to coincide with significant dates in the histories of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.
Other events made the hitherto ordinary days on which they occurred memorable for all time into the future. For example, the American Declaration of Independence was issued on 4 July 1776 not because of any particular significance that day already had, but because all the debates had taken place, the drafts discussed, and the transcript of the final document was ready for signing on that day. Yet by that fact it became the most significant date in the history of the United States for all time to come.
There is no doubt that both of these dynamics have been at work in the institutionalizing of Christmas on December 25th If January 6 or April 2nd or March 25 had been chosen as the official birthday of Jesus they would have attracted to those dates the same magic that December 25th now has. To be honest I think we have to concede that by the time the issue became important and urgent enough to commemorate nobody knew exactly when Jesus had been born and didn't seem to care very much either. Does it matter? Obviously in terms of establishing historical accuracy it does. But much more important than the historical accuracy of the date are the events which made the date special in the first place.
In truth there was much perception in the early Christian reluctance to mark the date of the birth of Jesus, for far more important and worthy of celebration were other dates in his life and their marvellous accomplishments, and those things marked realities into which you and I could tap, and into which he intended us to tap. When I was looking at parts of the Gospel of St. Luke when writing this article I noted, not for the first time, that more than thirty years of the life of Jesus, (almost 90% of his life) were covered in a paltry four or five lines out of about 300 pages of the New Testament. What was he doing from his presentation in the Temple and exile in Egypt up to age 12? What was he doing from the ages of 12 to 30? If the Indian and Tibetan scrolls tell us anything they say that he was forging out a pathway of extraordinary personal evolution that you and I were meant to follow.
Would that we were celebrating that at Christmas, or indeed at any other time of the year. It would be very mean spirited and out of place to even appear to begrudge any of the magical moments of Christmas, even if most of the ceremonial and customs come from a time that considerably antedates the life of Jesus. But it might be wise to ask could it not be even more magical if we had better information on what we are about here? Perhaps even unimaginably more magical? And can we ask how much of what magic is there now is due to the actual celebration of the birth of Jesus and what it portents for us all, or how much of the modern Christmas came in to join the 25 December occasion subsequently? We'd probably find it harder to become nostalgic about a mid-summer Christmas as those in warmer climates know. The nostalgia of snow, sled and the frost-fringed evergreen, or the cozy home of good cheer on a cold dark night, become harder to work into the scene.
But we can't forget that for the better part of two millennia reindeer, snow, sleighs, Santa Claus or even holly, ivy, dressing the evergreen tree, gift giving and mistletoe had nothing at all to do with Christmas. These mostly came into Christmas from pagan sources, and when all is said and done, not all that long ago. Or the wonderful reality of Santa Claus and the giving of gifts which slipped back to 25 December from December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas the original Santa. There's nothing at all wrong with any of these elements, pagan or Christian, far from it. The most wonderful insights and tools for spiritual evolution can come from decorating the Christmas Tree, for example. But for the majority of the people who this year will mark the birth of Jesus this will not be true, and when the focus does turn to Jesus at Christmas it will usually be in terms of the extraordinary birth of a superhuman individual surrounded by miraculous and supernatural elements since his conception, There is absolutely no tap into that scene for you or me except to bow down, worship and adore, and that precisely is not what Jesus intended. It is simply one more element of his being transformed from the ideal to be imitated into an idol to be worshipped.
Christmas is a magical time; it brings out the best in us all. And we are celebrating a truly wonderful episode in the history of all humanity, not just in the history of Christianity. So, does it matter whether Jesus was born on 25 December or not? It does not seem to be the correct date, but it's become hallowed by centuries of usage. Furthermore it is erected on the foundations of a much more ancient festival which was all about overcoming the fear of darkness and the emergence into light, so whatever about the historical details it probably could not have been located at a better time in the calendar. The important thing is that we celebrate the birth at some time of the year, and what is even more important is that we realize that birth heralded a glorious destiny which we could also follow and were meant to achieve, emerging out of darkness into the light in the very best sense. One of the greatest tests for a being in ancient times was to be able to emerge from total obscurity into absolute personal mastery. That is what this was all about and that is what we were meant to follow. Unfortunately we will hear almost nothing about that during this celebration nowadays, but the sooner we do, the sooner we will come to calculating Christmas in the deepest sense. That is, seeing the true reality of Jesus who told us our destiny was to learn to do all the wonders he did and greater, and thus see the real meaning of Christ-in-mass. Then we will see, as with all his works, teachings and example, it was ultimately all about us, not him.
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