“That’s Why There’s a Christmas Day”:
There is a popular song at this time of year that is based on the letters in the word “Christmas.” Here are some thoughts on the lines in this song to meditate upon during this holy season.
C is for the Christ Child, born on Christmas day:
The importance of this Child is indicated by the word “Christ,” which is a Greek translation (Christos) of the Hebrew word Messiah, a title meaning “anointed one.” Throughout the Bible the anointing of a person with oil signified that the person was dedicated to God. A well-known example would be Samuel’s anointing of the youthful David to be the future king of Israel, “and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13). That same Spirit was upon Jesus from the time of His birth in Bethlehem (also the birthplace of David) and would manifest Himself on such occasions as the Baptism of the Lord in the River Jordan (cf. Matt. 3:16) and His temptation by Satan in the desert (cf. Luke 4:1).
H for herald angels in the night:
Angels have played a major role in salvation history. Among their many appearances in the Old Testament, they visited Abraham (Gen. 18), led Moses and the Israelites to the Red Sea and protected them from the pursuing Egyptians (Exodus 14), and struck down 185,000 Assyrians (Isaiah 37:36). So, too, in the New Testament, angels accompanied Jesus from the Incarnation to the Ascension, first heralding His birth to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem and singing, “Glory to God in the highest/ and on earth peace to those on whom his/ favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Angels were also active in the early Church and guard and guide us still.
R means our Redeemer:
Even over the idyllic scene in that cave in Bethlehem there was the shadow of the cross, the symbol of our redemption. One of the gifts presented to the Christ Child was myrrh, a burial ointment. What an odd gift for a baby, unless that Baby was destined to give His life for the salvation of the world. The Child’s name would be Jesus, the Angel Gabriel told Mary (cf. Luke 1:31), a name that means “Savior.” And forty days after His birth, an old man named Simeon told the Blessed Mother that her Son would be a sign of contradiction and that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart (cf. Luke 2:34-35).
I means Israel:
Ever since the triumphant reign of David (1010-970), Israel had been waiting for a descendant of David who would restore Israel to its former glory. Many at the time of Jesus were expecting a political/military leader who would overthrow the hated Romans, so they did not recognize Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, even though He alone fulfilled all the prophecies from the Old Testament. He was, for example, descended from the “stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1), born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:1), worshiped by kings bearing gifts (Psalm 72:10), betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12-13), and “pierced for our offenses,/ crushed for our sins” (Isaiah 53:5). God had established a covenant with Israel, but that covenant would not be completely fulfilled until the coming of Christ, who would establish a new and everlasting covenant.
S is for the star that shone so bright:
While the mystery of the bright star that led the Magi to Bethlehem may never be completely solved, there is astronomical evidence of a confluence of planets at the time of Jesus’ birth that could have produced a star bright enough to guide the Magi hundreds of miles to Bethlehem. Or the star could have been the miraculous intervention of God.
T is for three wise men, they who traveled far:
The Bible doesn’t mention that there were three wise men, but it does mention three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh), and tradition gives the men the names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Although they are often identified as kings, the three were probably astrologers who studied the heavens for signs and observed a celestial event that caused them to travel a long distance, perhaps from Arabia or Persia. They actually visited the Christ Child in a house (cf. Matt.2:11) and, after being warned in a dream not to report back to King Herod, they returned to their homes by another route.
M is for the manger where He lay:
In the book and video entitled The Three Trees, one of the trees growing on the mountainside dreams of being made someday into a beautiful chest that will hold a great treasure. But instead the tree is made into a feed trough for animals and is terribly discouraged until one night a beautiful young woman places a newborn Baby in the trough. Then the tree realizes that his dream has come true, for he is holding the greatest treasure of all, the Son of God. The lesson is that God has a plan for all of us, one that we cannot even imagine.
A is all He stands for:
The key word here is “all.” Ask some people what Jesus stands for, and they will reduce His message to “be good” and “don’t be judgmental.” In fact, however, Jesus said that being good meant keeping the Commandments. He condemned “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly” as sins that come from within and defile a person (Mark 7:21-23). He said that unless we eat His Body and drink His Blood, we will not gain eternal life (cf. John 6:53); that those who fail to help their needy brothers and sisters will be cast “into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41); and that those who live and believe in Him will also rise from the dead on the last day.
S means shepherds came:
Shepherds were near the bottom rung of society in Jesus’ time, so it would have seemed inconceivable to the upper classes that the first announcement of the Messiah would be made to this lowly group. But Jesus often did the unexpected thing. He is the Good Shepherd who seeks first the lost sheep of Israel, who leaves the 99 sheep and searches for the one who was lost, who acts as a shepherd at the Last Judgment in separating the sheep from the goats, and who identifies Himself as the gate through which the sheep, i.e., those seeking salvation, must pass.
And that’s why there’s a Christmas day.
Merry Christmas, everyone!