Loreena Thiessen: A Brief History of Christmas

by Loreena Thiessen

Christmas is coming! Are you getting excited?

What if Christmas were cancelled? What would you do?

When Jesus was born only a few people knew who he was. The shepherds knew because the angels told them. The wise men knew because they studied the stars and a new star had appeared. This meant a new king had been born. King Herod knew that if Jesus was a king he was in trouble. He felt threatened that Jesus would take his place. King Herod was so afraid he decided to kill all baby boys just to be sure Jesus would not grow up and would not become king.

But Jesus escaped. Mary and Joseph bundled him up and left Bethlehem. They went to live in Nazareth where no one recognized him. Jesus was safe for now.

Jesus was not ordinary. When he grew up he taught the people about God and that he was God’s Son. He healed the sick and raised them up to live again. People followed him because he gave them hope. When the synagogue leaders saw how popular he was they were very angry. They accused him of blasphemy, lying about being the Son of God, and they killed him. It was a dangerous time for his followers and many went into hiding.

For 300 years the Roman government punished the Christians for not worshipping the Roman gods. One was Sol, the sun god.

In AD 0312, after Jesus was born, Constantine 1 became the new emperor. He worshipped Sol, the sun god, too. One day he was on his way to fight a new battle. On the way God showed him a vision. When Constantine looked up at the sun he saw the shape of a cross over the sun, and the words, “with this sign you will conquer.” He won the battle. Constantine immediately turned to the true God and became a follower of Jesus, and he changed the laws. Christians were no longer punished for believing only the one true God. The Christian church grew and for the first time Christmas Day became a holy day, a holiday, and was celebrated with family and friends. Together they shared feasts and gave gifts to each other.

For several hundreds of years the celebration of Christmas spread from country to country. Celebrations lasted for 12 days from December 25 to January 6. It was a time of feasting and happiness. People decorated their homes with evergreen branches and sang carols. Christmas Day became the most important day of the year.

After a time, in the 1600s, the Puritans, a strict group in the church and in the government, believed the people were celebrating too much. And so they cancelled Christmas. Now celebrating was against the law.

loreena-thiessen
Loreena Thiessen

Many years passed. In 1843 a man called Charles Dickens wrote the play, A Christmas Carol. The play tells the story of families celebrating Christmas together, taking care of each other and sharing with others. It is a story of joy and happiness. The play was an instant success. Everyone loved it. Once again the people began to celebrate Christmas.

Today we have the whole story. We celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth. We know he is the promised Messiah. We know that he died and rose again. We know that he will return for us. “I will come again,” he promised, “and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” This is why we celebrate Christmas.

Read Luke 2: 1 – 14, and John 14:1 – 6.

Activity: Make a mason jar table centre.

Need: 1 small mason jar, I pint size

3 or 4 pieces evergreen branches, each 8 cm long

½ cupful of fresh, or frozen cranberries

1 piece of raffia ribbon or jute string, 60 cm long

1 floating tea light

enough water to fill the jar

Do:     tie the string around the neck of the jar

Place greenery inside the jar

Add the cranberries

Fill the jar with water to about 2 cm from the top

Place the floating tea light on the water

Use the mason jar candle as a center piece or give as a gift

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