Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning

It's Christmas morning on Eegeebeegee and for an hour or so this morning we'll be able to say that we have a white Christmas here at the northern end of southern nowhere. There's no snow, but a thick layer of frost is glowing white in the early morning sunlight. Frankly, that's all the white I want on Christmas, or any other day for that matter.

Miss Brenda and I don't tend to make a big fuss at Christmas. Most years since the kids left home, we don't even put up a tree. Some years our gift giving, in the name of Christmas, is already done before December arrives on the calendar. That's not to say that the holiday doesn't mean much to us. We prefer to channel the frenetic energy of the season into reflection on the reason we celebrate the 25th of December.

There are those who would rather we not dwell at all on the spiritual aspect of Christmas. Some challenge the date. Others wish to ecumenicalize the holiday, making it about anything but the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether you accept the date as the actual birth date of the savior is immaterial. I know the history of pagan seasonal rituals co-opted for Christianity's sake. So don't try to tell me that Christmas isn't really about the birth of Jesus. If you don't like celebrating the birth of Christ, then don't hypocritically celebrate Christmas Day. If you want to celebrate like a pagan, don't co-opt my holiday to do so.

What is most amazing to me is the power of God and His Son displayed in the conversion of their most virulent opponents. Saul's (thereafter known as Paul) conversion on the road to Damascus is one of the most celebrated from scripture. Paul, converted from his crusade to stamp out nascent Christianity, became one of the greatest spreaders of the Gospel in the first century following Christ's coming. Perhaps even more important to the spread of Christianity (and the subsequent celebration of the Christ's birth on December 25th) was the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine I in the fourth century A.D.

Constantine, visiting Eboracum (modern day York, England) with his father Emperor Constantius Chlorus, was proclaimed Emperor (by the Legion in York) following Constantius' death in 306 A.D. Meanwhile in Rome, Maxentius, the son of an Emperor deposed by Constantius, was proclaimed Emperor by the troops garrisoning Rome. Over the next six years Constantine sailed from Britain, marshaled legions to his side, overran most of Italy, and prepared to besiege Rome. Maxentius, rather than endure a siege, marched his forces out to meet Constantine in open battle. Prior to the 312 A.D. Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine received a revelation. Constantine later told contemporary historians that on the march toward Rome, he observed a cross in the sun and heard a voice proclaim "in this sign you will conquer." Constantine instructed his troops to paint the Greek letters Chi --Rho, the first two letters of Christ in Greek, on their shields. Victorious under the sign of Christ, Constantine made Christianity the Roman Religion, changed the December 25th celebration of the sun god Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun) to the celebration of the birth of the Son of God, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Merry Christmas!
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