The Christ in Christmas
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Communion (1995 Series)

The Christ of Christmas

Scheduled for December 21

It is a solidly established fact that the early church had no celebration of what we now call Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ.  The custom at that time was to celebrate the day of a person’s death, not birth, and the early church adopted various festivals honoring certain martyrs on the days which marked their deaths as well as Easter.

 

Christmas itself seems to have originated in the fourth century in the Roman church, and spread rapidly throughout Christendom.  Surprisingly, one of the reasons for this rapid spread was the popularity of a certain heresy known as Arianism.  Arius, the bishop who started all this, claimed that Jesus was not truly divine in every sense, but was a created being, the highest of all created beings but nonetheless created.  The church needed a way to stress to the average Christian -- a person who could not read and depended upon the priests for solid doctrine -- that Jesus was in fact God in the flesh.  The celebration of his birth being somewhat in fashion, the church promoted this as a way to instruct the faithful in correct doctrine.

 

Arianism has an opposite:  it is called Gnosticism.  Gnosticism is found in the New Testament church as a heresy.  While Arianism says that Christ was not fully God, Gnosticism says that he was not fully man.  Between these two heresies we have the roots of most of the cults which have plagued Christianity from its beginnings.  Many cults just cannot accept Jesus as both “fully God” and “fully man,” or, as the New Testament puts it, “Son of God” and “Son of Man.”

 

It is essential to our understanding of Communion that we see him as both.  Jesus Christ came to die, to pay the sacrifice due for our sins.  Such a sacrifice had to be human, in the flesh, for the sin came from humanity.  Such a sacrifice had to be divine, for only God could meet the standard of complete righteous perfection required of such a sacrifice.

 

That can be difficult to understand, so permit me an example.  Let us suppose that I’m bankrupt -- no money and lots of bills to pay.  I need some help, and because my credit is so lousy, no one will loan me the money.  But, let’s suppose, I have a rich uncle.  I go to him and because he’s a loving uncle he gives me the money to pay my debts.

 

Note two things:  first, he must be a rich uncle.  A poor one, a bankrupt like me, won’t do.  Next, his money has to be in dollars, because that’s what I owe, and if he can’t change it into dollars I’m still broke.  Jesus is like that.  Because he is God, he is able to pay the debt.  Because he is man,  he uses the same currency I do.  Combined, he can pay the debt.  And like my (very mythical) rich uncle, he loves me enough to do it.  Enough to die on the cross so that my debt might be paid.

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