Tag Archive | "December 25th"

The 25th of December

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Christmas Shoppers

On the 25th day of December, Christians around the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  His is the story that began in a manger in Bethlehem and ended on a cross in Calvary.  The story tells of a star that appeared in the heavens, serving as a guide to three kings (the Wise Men) who journeyed to that stable in Bethlehem.  There, they found an infant in swaddling clothes warmed by the breath of animals.  To honor the child long promised to mankind as The Light of the World, the royals offered the greatest riches of the times: sweet spices and gold.  From his humble beginnings in a manger, Jesus the Christ grew to establish one of the greatest religions of the world: Christianity.


The religion based upon the tenet, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” now has many arms.  Roman Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, et al may differ to some degree in the way that they have structured their religions, but all branches of Christianity embrace Jesus as their savior.   From sea to shining sea, Christianity is the religion practiced by the majority of U.S citizens.   For many years, people in this country have celebrated December 25th as Jesus’ birthday.  We’ve reflected upon Jesus’ sacrifices in giving up his mortal life so that the souls of all too human sinners might find eternal life.  In carrying on the tradition of gift giving as per the Three Wise Men, we give presents to our family, friends, and neighbors.  We donate toys, clothing, food, and gifts of money to worthy charities.  We worship at Midnight Mass, singing hymns of glory to the Son of God and finding a brief respite from the rigors of daily life in contemplation of what is truly valuable in this life.


Down through the years, December 25th — Christmas — has also been synonymous with entities that have no religious connotations.  Lawn figures of Santa and Mrs. Claus, Kris Kringle, Santa’s elves, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other seasonal symbols such as Yule logs, fir trees, wreaths, ribbons, and lights precede the birthday of Jesus, because it is good for business.  Across the nation, cash registers in retail stores ca-ching like jingle bells while online, PayPal takes hits in the most profitable way.


Now, Political Correctness, A.K.A. Separation of Church and State ensures that we can no longer display in public places any evidence of a religious holiday. As a result, Christmas is now referred to as Winter Solstice (that moment in time when the sun is the closest to the Earth), Winter Break (when we close the schools to give the teachers a break) or just “The Holidays,” thus relegating Christianity to the closet.


Beginning as early as the end of summer, enterprising retailers begin heralding the Son of God by offering special money-saving sales on gift items. They do not advertise them as Jesus’ Birthday sales, Pre-Christmas sales, or Christian Holiday sales, but conveniently name them “Holiday Season Sales.” Given today’s economic woes, many emporiums are pinched by the lack of consumer participation.  From sea to shining sea, abandoned storefronts now stand in place of once-thriving retail enterprises.  To encourage sales, why not appeal to the majority of Americans — the Christian community — by reinstating old clichés like “Merry Christmas” and playing those old favorites, such as “Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing” and “Silent Night” to loosen the purse strings of Christian buyers?   It’s good for business!


Once the dust settles on December 26th, we will find out whether store owners will be dancing around their cash registers to a rousing chorus of, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” or glumly singing that old Depression song, “No More Money in the Bank.” 

Merry Mithras

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Mithras Slaying Bull

Born of a virgin on December 25th, followed by a core group of twelve with whom he had a final meal sharing bread and wine, performer of miracles, killed and resurrected, known as the “light of the world” – if you guessed that I am describing Jesus the Christ, you would be incorrect.  Rather, I write about the ancient god, Mithras.


The cult of Mithras was one of a number of ancient mystery religions, so denoted because their “mysteries” were revealed only to their initiates.  What we know about the ancient Mysteries of Mithras comes primarily from the commentary of early Christian detractors, references in ancient historical and philosophical treatises, and archeological remains of carvings, temples, and statues.


Thought to have originated in Persia in the fifth or sixth century before Christ, the Mithraic Mysteries that flourished among Romans at the same time as the growth of Christianity have more recently been speculated as having their foundation in cosmology and astrology.


Regardless of its origin, what is indisputable is that the leadership of Christianity, in their infinite wisdom, chose to celebrate the birth of our Savior on the exact same date that the adherents of the Mithraic cult commemorated the birth of theirs.  Although it is possible that Jesus’ birth occurred on the same date as the mythical Mithras by happenstance, it is highly unlikely.  Saint Luke’s account has “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” – an occurrence much more likely in the summer season than at winter’s commencement.  Rather, this is another example of the early Church supplanting a pagan holiday with a Christian one.


While the similarities between Christianity and Mithraism are striking, one need not become too concerned.  It is uncertain whether or not what we know of Mithraism actually predated Christianity.  And, even if it did, articles of religious belief are a matter of faith, not fact.


But, I wonder if on December 25th, those of us who are Christians should be wishing family and friends a Merry Christmas, or a Merry Mithras. 

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