A Christmas with Angels – The Gospel of Christmas
Before eavesdropping on the angels, let’s take a closer look at the ‘Gospel’ of Christmas.
What, you may ask, is the ‘Gospel’ of Christmas? It is estimated that every year, around the 25th of December, approximately 2.3 billion people celebrate what many call, “Christmas.” How did this all get started? It might shock you to know that accepted historical records tell us the origins of this celebration began many centuries before the birth of ‘The Christ.’
A simple search of the internet will return pages and pages of records, which can be easily examined, to explain the origins of today’s Christmas celebration. We are told that there is no record that Christianity did, in fact, officially celebrate the birth of ‘The Christ’ before Constantine’s ‘Edict of Milan’ in 313 AD. The same pages list records which state that it wasn’t until sometime between 313 AD and 336 AD that an official observance of the birth of ‘The Christ’ first appears.
What about the name of the celebration? Public records reveal that use of this word ‘Christmas’ first appeared in 1038 AD. There is brevity of historical material referring to the word. What there is shows that the name is actually a compound word that originates from two religious terms, “Christ’s” and “Mass.” Those two terms, then, are said to be derived from the Middle English word ‘Cristemasse,’ which is, in turn, derived from the Old English word ‘Crīstesmæsse.’
Author’s Note: It is no coincidence that the term, ‘mass,’ is appropriately associated with the branch of Christianity known as Catholicism. It was during its ascendancy as the authority, speaking for all Christianity, that the Christ Mass began to be part of the liturgical calendar.
At that time, organized Christianity consisted of two branches, which, coincidently or not, correspond to the two branches of the Roman Empire. The two branches were known as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Except for the four gospels and Josephus (the 1st century Romano-Jewish scholar and historian, 37 – 100 AD), the information we can find is scattered around the landscape of history, from the resurrection of ‘The Christ’ until 1038 AD. There is even less information regarding the common practice of local Christian assemblies. The little that there is, is brief and narrow, but certainly useful.
Of the four gospels, each one written prior to 100 AD, only two of them mention the birth of ‘The Christ’ in significant detail. These are Matthew and Luke. These two books give weight to the birth of ‘The Christ’ because of the closeness of their writing to the actual event.
The other two, Mark and John, only mention the birth by inference or in passing, as does Josephus. Mark, who emphasized Christ as the son of man, begins his gospel when Christ is already an adult. As the son of man, he was the promised savior and scapegoat without pedigree. Mark highlights critical Jewish prophecies pointing to that service and adheres to this constraint to the degree that even the lineage of ‘The Christ’ is not mentioned.
John doesn’t mention Christ’s birth either and for good reason. His gospel emphasizes the eternal deity of Christ and portrays Him as ‘the Son of God.’ Being Divine, then, He is not born but eternal.
Nothing is certain of Josephus’ motivations in not mentioning more about the birth.
When you consider the following table, we have much to become excited about. Matthew and John knew Yeshuah personally. Luke and Mark knew, intimately, those who studied under Yeshuah and traveled with several witnesses of Yeshuah’s life and resurrection.
- Mark: Written somewhere between 60 AD and his martyrdom in 68 AD
- Matthew: Written somewhere between 70 AD and his death in 90 AD as a martyr
- Luke: Written somewhere between 70 AD and his death in 84 AD from natural causes
- John: Written somewhere between 60 AD and his death between 90 and 110 AD
This is, then, the ‘Gospel’ of Christmas. Our most recent rendition of the Christmas celebration is therefore built upon this foundation.
In the next article we will pan for gold by searching out the birth of ‘The Christ’ and the nuggets we find in history regarding attributing gospel records.