Christmas; Birth, not Birthday

Christmas: Birth, not Birthday.

By Fr. Henry Charles Umelechi

How old were you when you knew that at Christmas, we are not celebrating the BIRTHDAY of Jesus but the BIRTH of Jesus?

I know that you may have never thought about Christmas like this.

On the ordinary language and parlance, birthday has only to do with the ANNIVERSARY OF THE DAY on which a person was born. Birth has to do with the start of life as a physically separate being.

Prior to the legalization [not the beginning(mind the emphasis)] of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine in the year 313, no universal date or even formal celebration of Christmas is found. For instance, Origen (d. 255), St. Irenaeus (d. 202), and Tertullian (d. 220) do not include Christmas or its date on their lists of feasts and celebrations.

After legalization, the Church was better able to establish universal dates for feasts and to organize their public celebration. Moreover, we now see the Church addressing controversies concerning Jesus as true God and true man, and how He entered this world. So the importance of celebrating Christmas, the birth of our Lord.

On Christmas, the church IS NOT celebrating the REMEMBRANCE/ANNIVERSARY OF THE DAY Jesus was born but the fact that JESUS WAS BORN, which recalls the events that surrounds his birth, before, during and after, and their implications to humanity.

This is why the church theologically refers to Christmas simply as the NATIVITY OF THE LORD. This points to INCARNATION which has a lot of implications in the church’s theology. The church is celebrating the mystery of the Incarnation of God, “and the WORD was made flesh and dwelt amongst us” (John 1:14).

Moreover, there are many explanations that places the exact birth of Jesus to be (on 25th or outside 25th) of December. Nevertheless, whether Jesus was born on 25th December or not, is only too relevant to people who doubt the existence of Jesus.

Yes. Do you doubt it?

Many of us don’t know the exact date their grandfather was born and that of their father too, yet they kept records of events which are verifiable about their existence. So also with Jesus or Yeshua (ישוע) in Hebrew, or Ιησούς(Iisoús) in Greek.

We all know that many of us do this but it doesn’t amount to the non-existence of their father or grandfather. So why posit the non-existence of Jesus in this regard?

On the other hand, many of us shift the celebration of their birth to another day and even commemorate events in their lives on days which are not exactly the day these events happened. Why? The reason is simple:

They are not talking about the day the event happened because they know it happened; they know they were born, but they are interested more in the events that happened. So also, Christmas is more about the events of Jesus’ birth.

Therefore, the Church on 25th December celebrate THE BIRTH of Jesus and NOT THE DAY Jesus was born. It is about that Jesus was born, which is incarnation and not about the DAY of his birth. Incarnation has a lot of meaning in the church, in the theology of the bible and so in the church’s theology.

Christmas is not a about a particular day, but about an event beyond a particular day.

The Igbo expression is of Christmas is not “Ncheta ỤBỌCHỊ ỌMỤMỤ Jesu” but “Ncheta ỌMỤMỤ Jesu.”

©Truth Series


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