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God became human: How does that make you FEEL?

It’s the third day after Christmas and I’m still struck by the absolute wonder of the Creator-God becoming human in (baby) Jesus. I’ve been thinking, essentially, what does it mean? And how does it make us feel?

By becoming one of us, in essence, God accepts and loves us for who we are. The ‘Incarnation’ means God affirms our humanity, blesses our body, dignifies our unique personhood. 

God doesn’t sit in heaven dealing with us in terms of what we do or don’t do. God becomes one of us, dealing with us in terms of who we are… his broken but beautiful image on earth.

THAT loving acceptance, incarnate in Jesus, heals and transforms us. We’re not changed by performance, motivated by rules or guilt or fear of punishment. We see this loving acceptance in the remarkable story of Jesus and the women caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. We see it ultimately in the cross, in the bruised and broken image of God dying in our place.  

THIS reality determines not only our beliefs, but our feelings. How does it make you feel? The more I ponder it, the more it makes me feel truly accepted and deeply loved.

Why this question about feelings

Because emotions are important. They are powerful in our human formation. Feelings can develop into patterns that become fixed in our body, forming thoughts, beliefs, moods… for better or worse. Negative feelings, left unattended, dominate. They paralyse our will and determine our (poor) self-image and self-worth(lessness). They lead to dysfunction, and ultimately, to destruction.

In short, feelings are like unruly children clamouring for our attention. If not disciplined, they become merciless masters. However, if disciplined and trained under God, they are transformed into good servants of God’s truth/reality.

For example, I’ve struggled with dominant feelings of rejection since childhood, due to psycho-emotional hurt. You may struggle with loneliness, or anger, or worthlessness, that darkens and deceives your mind into believing the lie that you’re unloved – even though you have family and friends who love you. Why? Because you still FEEL unloved.  

Such desolate feelings incarnate themselves in our body over time and become our posture, resulting in ‘issues’ of mental health, physical ailment, relational dysfunction. Oscar Wilde said that by the age of 45 or 50 we all have acquired, even developed, the face that we deserve! Faces reveal emotional states, sometimes fixed for life, for better or worse.

How can we change this?

By learning to pray our feelings – as taught in my Praying the Psalms Volume Two, Praying our Challenges & Choices. I don’t have to accept desolate feelings when they arise. I’m NOT a passive victim of my emotions. They’re asking for attention. So, I consciously process and release them to God. I ask God, again and again, to lift them off me, while I wilfully reverse them by asserting the truth that God accepts and loves me for who I am – in all my brokenness and beauty.  

Consciously throw yourself into the loving arms of God, your real Father and Mother, as often as is needed. Picture yourself being held, just as Mary and Joseph adoringly embraced the babe of Bethlehem. Just as Jesus grew into a profound awareness of being loved by Abba (Father) in each moment of every day: “you are my son (or daughter), my Beloved, in whom I delight”. Just as the Father ran and embraced and kissed the returning son.

You are God’s beloved daughter/son, accepted for who you are in Christ.

THIS is how God becoming human makes you feel… if you embrace it.

Practice it.

Live it.

Be and become it. 

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2021 Christmas Meditation: Mary as a Model of Discipleship

Intro & background

I was asked to share a meditation on Christmas in two churches. So I chose this story in Luke 1:26-38. And I decided to publish my notes for any who may be interested.

Luke’s nativity story is from Mary’s perspective, after his “careful investigation from eyewitnesses, to write an orderly account”, so that “you know the certainty of what you have been taught” (1:1-14). This is in contrast to Matthew’s nativity story, which is more from Joseph’s perspective.

We see the wonder of God’s coming into the world in baby Jesus, the Messiah-King, by human-divine agency: Mary and God’s Spirit. It involved not only Mary’s body, but her whole being, and her whole world.

“Christ-mass” is the celebration of Christ (Messiah-King) coming into the world. It involves the mystery of human-divine agency. Thus, there is a long historical Church tradition of Mary as a model of faith and obedience, a model of Christian discipleship.

As God came into this world through Mary, so God comes into our world in and through you and me. We see her example of availability and agency. God comes in us, through us, to the world around us, forever changing it!

Thus we can learn five things from Mary as a model of Christian discipleship in Luke 1:26-38, from “Christ being formed in you”, in the words of Paul (Gal 4:19).

  • Be-Loved: Mary in Hebrew is Miriam (v.27), meaning “beloved”. Gabriel came to Mary, greeting her as one “highly favoured, the Lord is with you” (28). God didn’t choose Israel because she was numerous or obedient, but because he loved Israel, “set his affection on her” (Deut 7:7-9). The same with you. God chooses you, comes to you, not because you’re strong or intelligent or whatever, but because he “so loved” you (John 3:16). Mary was troubled and amazed by this greeting, this affirmation of love (29). Who am I to receive this visitation, this greeting, this message? We too struggle to receive grace and favour… to be loved. We need to learn how to be-loved. And to believe it!
  • Be-lieve: “Don’t be afraid” (30). Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is the mortal enemy of belief. The explanation of what God would do in her, and through her into the world (30-33), required faith. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s word” to us (Rom 10:17). God’s word, his promise of what he will do, sounds too full of wonder to believe! But Mary believed! Her life story speaks of faith in God, in what God was doing, bringing the King/Kingdom through her into the world. She believed that “nothing is impossible with God” (37). God’s coming into this world requires you to believe God, to believe his word and works to you, in you, and through you.
  • Be-brave: “How will this be?” (34) is not unbelief. It’s a genuine query of faith. Being a virgin, she was unsure how it would happen. How will God do it? What must I do? To believe and keep trusting, when it seems naturally impossible, calls for courage. And to fall pregnant before the wedding was socially scandalous, an ‘illegitimate’ conception (Matthew 1:18-19), that would radically affect her life. Christ being formed in her changed her, and her world, completely – against all controversy and opposition! She was brave in Jesus’ conception, in his birth, in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection… a model of discipleship. God’s coming into this world in/through you calls not only for faith, but real courage. Be brave!
  • Be-intimate: “The Holy Spirit will come on you… overshadow you” (35). Mary was available to God for intimate communion. God’s life and purposes are conceived, nurtured, and birthed in/through you by spiritual union with God. Christ being formed in you shapes and defines you in every way, in all dimensions of your being and becoming. Mary is our model of ongoing intimacy with God by his overshadowing/indwelling Holy Spirit.
  • Be-humble: “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said” (38). Humility is accurate self-knowledge and self-acceptance in true dependence on God. False humility is inferiority – it’s self-humiliation. On the other hand, superiority is presumption and pride – it’s self-exaltation. As you make yourself fully available to God for intimate relationship, you become his servant, humbly doing his will on earth as in heaven. Therefore, God comes into this world through humble servants… who are beloved, who believe, who are brave, who live in and from intimacy with God.

Happy Christmas!

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What does the ‘Advent’ of Christmas mean?

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

This is the reading for the first Sunday of Advent, which fell (this year) on 29 November. I was asked to share a message on the meaning of Advent with Following Jesus, the church I previously pastored (see the video presentation). First an explanation and background, then brief reflections on what Advent means for us, focusing on the four names in Isaiah’s text.

The English word advent comes from Latin adventus, meaning arrival or coming. Essentially, the expectation and arrival of an important person or event. Advent is associated with Christmas: the celebration (‘mass’) of the birth of Christ (‘Messiah’). Whether Jesus was actually born on 25 December is not the point. The point is that a day of great joy was chosen to celebrate the coming of God’s King into our world.

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek parousia (coming, appearance) in the New Testament, used primarily for King Jesus’ return or Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:15). When Caesar or an important dignitary in the Roman world came to a village, town, or city, they would prepare and watch and wait in great expectation. As the watchmen saw signs of ‘The Parousia’, they would loudly announce it. Then the rulers and elders would go out to meet the person(s) on the road and welcome them, and escort them back into the village, town, or city. A celebratory party would follow. That’s the meaning of Jesus’ Parousia.

Therefore, advent meant, for the early centuries of Church history, the expectation of the Second Coming of Christ to judge the world. Only from the 6th century did it shift to Jesus’ first coming, his birth and then baptism (his ‘Epiphany’ or appearance to start his ministry). As that tradition developed, four ‘Advent Sundays’ were set to prepare for Christ’s birth on the date of 25 December. Four candles were used to represent four aspects of our waiting expectation of Christ’s mass – that Christ be born anew in our lives and our world.

In short, Advent is a tradition of the Church that developed with varying interpretations and practices, marking the beginning of the annual Christian liturgical calendar.

The lighting of each candle over the four Sundays and the themes they represent point to both the Second Coming and the first coming of Jesus:

Hope – the promise of God’s coming
Waiting – the (prophetic) preparation for God’s coming
Joy – the peace of God
Love – the adoration of God

The four candles and their enlightening themes relate to the four names given to “the child born to us”, the babe of Bethlehem. It’s remarkable how clearly Isaiah saw and spoke, by the Holy Spirit, of the coming Messiah 700 years before Jesus’ birth. “The great light… dawned for all living in deep darkness”, giving certain hope based on promise, activating preparation and joy in anticipation of the coming of God’s Prince of Peace (Shalom).

Though a weak and vulnerable baby, The Great Light shone bright. And continues to shine ever brighter to the ends of the earth. The end is loving adoration of God’s humble King, just as the kings of the east bowed down after their long and arduous journey following the Star of Bethlehem. This torrid year of corona trauma, with its extraordinary challenges, has been a rough road for all of us. So… stop… to reflect on and receive anew the true nature of Christmas, of Christ’s coming into our lives, into our world lost in deep darkness.

What this means is represented in the four names Isaiah gives to the “son given to us”. Names in Semitic usage describe the person’s character and purpose. Earlier Isaiah said that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). God does not abandon us. God becomes one of us. God in human skin. Takes on our weakness. Feels our feelings. Undergoes our temptations. Bears our pain and brokenness. Suffers our sin and death in redemptive love. God with us means…

Wonderful Counsellor:
Jesus, Wisdom of God. God comes as one of us in “the son that is given”, guiding us in how to live life as God purposed. “A little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). God is – especially in these trying times – “wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29). Receive Jesus in this way. Ask him for the wisdom you need to respond correctly to what you’re going through, to the trials you face (James 1:2-5). We all need this kind of spiritual direction at this time. And for the year ahead.

Mighty God:
Jesus, Power of God. Jesus came/appeared to Israel in God’s power doing miracles of deliverance and healing. The paradox of the powerless baby who is the Mighty God, the Warrior King defeating evil in all its oppressive forms. Receive Jesus as your Mighty God. Ask him for the miracle you need right now. Furthermore, Mary symbolizes Jesus coming to life in us by God’s power. We take the shape of his life growing in us, which expresses itself through us in signs and wonders to the world around us. How can you express the Mighty God in this way to those in need – giving real Christmas gifts?

Everlasting Father:
Jesus, Love of God. Jesus was the advent (coming/appearing) of the embodied love of God. Jews knew Yahweh as their loving Father who tenderly nurtured them like a mother nurses her baby (Isaiah 49:14-15). Jesus was the human expression of this divine reality. “Everlasting Father” describes divinity – a remarkable name for the baby nursing at Mary’s breast. Everlasting means without beginning or end. God… as Father (and Mother). Eternal Love made flesh. As the child Jesus grew in consciousness, he experienced God as profoundly personal and intimate love in each moment of every day. He called God Abba, Daddy. Because Jesus was perfectly loved, he loved perfectly. He laid down his life in love of us. Close your eyes, open your hands and receive Jesus as the Everlasting Father, Perfect Love. And be an expression and embodiment of that love to others in need.   

Prince of Peace:
Jesus, Ruling Shalom of God. God, in Christ, came as one of us to put the world right, to save humanity and planet earth. To make peace through his government of justice and righteousness, grace and truth – in contrast to and in judgement of all other governments. Shalom is peace, God’s wholistic wellbeing, order, harmony and abundance, which is God’s design for all creation. It is, however, based on right relationship with God, self, each other, and creation. “Justice and righteousness” mean ‘right-way-of-relating’ – as God relates. Wrong relationship with God, self, others, and/or creation, is sin and death. It shatters Shalom. Plunges the world into the darkness of death and chaos, disease and disintegration. Ultimately hell on earth! BUT, Jesus came to bring heaven on earth, to restore the rule and reign of Shalom, to make all things new. Receive Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Receive rest. Let him calm your mind, emotions, body. Let him order your heart and relationship rightly. And yes, be an instrument of his peace to those around you.      

All of this is Christmas, Christ’s mass. The celebration of Christ, The Great Light, who comes into our world that walks in deep darkness. Therefore, Happy Christmas!

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Baby Jesus – Hope of the World

To listen to my Christmas message, the audio talk of these notes, click on

The nativity stories strike me with wonder, especially the stark contrasts portrayed in the little baby Jesus. Pope Francis’ tweet on 23 Dec captures it:
“If you really want to celebrate Christmas, then contemplate this
image: The fragile simplicity of a new-born baby. That is where God is.”


Matthew’s nativity scene presents Jesus as the Jewish King, come in fulfillment of the prophecies, contrasted with Herod The Great, the puppet Jewish King.
Luke, however, contrasts Jesus with Caesar Augustus. He sets his story of Jesus’ birth against a far broader canvas of the Roman Empire, with the coming of God’s Empire in the baby Jesus to save the world.


Read Luke 2:1-19.In those days Caesar Augustus decreed…”, is contrasted with v.6, “the time came for the baby to the born…” This is a means of historical dating of the nativity event, but Luke uses it to set the scene for an extended implied contrast between the two Emperors. ‘Caesar’ means King – of the known world at that time. God is in charge of time and history because, when Caesar issued his decree, God used it as the very timing for the birth of His King.


Caesar’s word moves Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Rome, meaning ‘power, strength’, is the centre of the Empire that makes it all happen. Bethlehem, meaning ‘House of Bread’, was in Palestine, the backwaters of the Empire in the Roman province of Syria. That’s where Jesus was born –The Bread of Heaven came to earth to feed the world with his own life. The centre of the Empire, indeed of the universe, had just moved from Rome to Bethlehem.


Mary, heavily pregnant, travelled with Joseph under decree, by donkey and on foot for at least three days to Bethlehem. They were not received. There was no guest room for them. They were put out into a cave where sheep slept at night. Caesar traveled in complete comfort to wherever, whenever, he wanted; and was received with celebration and fanfare, with pomp and ceremony.


Then “the time came for the baby to be born.” He was wrapped in simple cloths and placed in a manger, a feeding trough. Picture Caesar in his grand palace in Rome, robed with the extravagant excess of an Emperor who was worshipped as a Roman god, seated on his illustrious throne. The contrast could not be greater: Jesus’ palace was the cave, his robe was the wrapping cloth, his throne was the manger – from which he began his reign as God’s King to inaugurate His Empire. What dramatic reversal of values!


Luke introduces the attendants to King Jesus’ birth: the shepherds and the angels (v.8f). Sheep herders were the among the lowest and poorest in Palestine. God called them, in contrast to high society, to witness and attend the baby’s coronation. They were living in the fields watching the sheep. It was night. The power of darkness was suddenly pierced and overcome by light. Jesus, the light of the world, will overcome the darkness of evil, the empires of this world. Despite the so-called Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome, Jews were seriously oppressed under Roman rule, especially by the brutal occupying army.


The angels appeared in a dazzling blaze of glory, bringing “good news that will cause great joy for all people” (Lk 2:10). ‘Good news’ was a technical term (Greek evangelion, meaning ‘gospel’) used for the Roman Caesars. Heralds, technically evangelists, went to the ends of the Empire proclaiming the Gospel of Caesar: “Augustus was born in 63 BC, became King in 27 BC, defeated our enemies in such and such battles, established Pax Romana, bringing peace to the whole world.” He reigned for 41 years! Luke’s readers would not have missed the contrast of the Gospel of baby Jesus, God’s Emperor born on this day… He will bring true joy, the real peace, to all people… He is the hope of the world.


The angels proclaim Jesus as “Saviour, The Messiah, The Lord.” (Lk 2:11). These were titles for Augustus Caesar, known throughout the Empire. Loyalists would have bristled with anger at such, now blatant, comparison! Then the angels said, “this will be the sign for you to know him…” – NOT a King in dazzling robes on a majestic throne – but a vulnerable baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger in a sheep grotto. As shepherds, they would be right at home!


Suddenly there’s a great choir of angels filling the heavens praising God, in contrast to the choirs in Rome that sang Caesar’s praises as a Roman god. The angels sang of the rule of heaven come to earth bringing “peace” to all people of good will. Here again is Luke’s implied contrast with Pax Romana and Jesus’ Kingdom of Shalom. Hebrew shalom is God’s peace, meaning wholeness, order, harmony and prosperity, based on right relationship with God, ourselves, each other, and creation.


Then the shepherds hurried off to look for “the sign”: The fragile simplicity of a new-born baby. That is where God is – the greatest revelation of God’s power in such human weakness, in contrast to such worldly power and strength in human pride and glory.

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed” (v.17). The shepherds, of the lowest and least respected in that society, become the evangelists of the lowly King, taking his evangel (Gospel) to the ends of the earth. They even become like the angels (angelos means messenger) proclaiming the Gospel of baby Jesus as Saviour, Messiah, Lord of Heaven and Earth, Joy of the world.


These dramatic contrasts are beautifully captured by St. Ephraim the Syrian (306-373 AD) in his Hymn to the Birth of Christ:
“God, who measures the sky with the width of his hand,
lies in a manger as large as a hand’s width;
He, who holds the sea in the hollow of his hand,
experienced his birth in the hollow of a cave.
The sky is full of his glory and
the manger is full of his splendor.”


However, as Origen (185-254 AD) asked, ““Does it profit us that Christ was
once born of Mary in Bethlehem if he is not born also by faith in our soul?”

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Christmas: A Revolution of Mercy and Tenderness

The essence of Christmas is GOD’s coming into the world – the greatest gift known to humanity – the hope of planet earth!

God who is so great, the Creator of our ever-expanding universe, became so small, to be one of us, so that we who are so small can know him, and become so great in him. Christmas is the mystery of God’s coming into this harsh and cruel world, not to add to human pain by killing others to set up his Kingdom; but he came as humble love and tender mercy in a vulnerable baby, to save the world.

In keeping with Pope Francis’ declaration of an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (begun 8 December 2015), God’s coming into our world in the little baby of Bethlehem was the Jubilee of all Jubilees, “The Year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18), The Day of Salvation, The Moment of Mercy that changed history forever. Francis said, in light of the harsh realities of our cruel world – the Syrian civil war with 300 000 killed and millions of migrants on the march, the horrendous massacres by Jihadist terrorists, and the many other sources and forms of human pain and tragedy – we need mercy! We need to show mercy, to receive mercy. We need a revolution of tenderness, to be kind and gentle with others. There is no more tender and merciful story than Christmas: God’s coming into our world as a little baby, to begin a revolution of tenderness – that we must join!

Read Luke 1:26-38. Gabriel announced to the teenage Mary that God’s coming into the world would be through her – her young body. Paul “spiritualizes” that same reality: God comes into this world again and again in and through every believer, as “Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19). The early church fathers used Mary as model for all believers in Christ. As Messiah was physically born in her, so he is spiritually born in us who believe. Just as Mary’s life, body and relationships took the shape of the Christ formed within her, so our lives, bodies and relationships, take the shape of Christ being formed in us. And the purpose is to literally save the world around us!

In the Luke text we find four characteristics in Mary that facilitated God’s tender and merciful coming into the world as the baby of Bethlehem. Continue reading Christmas: A Revolution of Mercy and Tenderness

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2014 Christmas Day Message

To listen to the audio teaching click on this link:

Christmas: Celebrating God’s coming into this world by being like Mary, a faith-full model of human participation

A Lectio Divina exercise in Luke 1:26-38.

Go to your place of prayer. Become quiet and still before God. Ask God to speak to you. Then slowly and prayerfully read the set passage, allowing the text to ‘speak’ to you… any word, phrase, sentence, image, thought, etc, that you are drawn to, or that gets your attention. Then dwell on that thought, text, image, etc. Meditate on it, and use it to prayerfully interact with God. Then record your prayer-meditation when you finished.

Two clear thoughts came to me in my lectio – more accurately, God spoke to me:

  • The astonishing announcement and reality of God coming into this world: God entered our world by becoming a human being, coming to us in flesh and blood… to save us! I was struck by the various words and titles Gabriel used to describe God entering our world (from “child” to “Son of God”; how many can you find?) – also the express purpose of God’s coming. The more I thought and prayed about it, the more amazed I was at this announcement to Mary – and it’s mysterious meaning – the reality of God actually entering our pain-filled world, becoming one of us, in order to save us, to save creation gone terribly wrong. It makes me worship God.
  • And even more astonishing (in some ways) was Mary’s response – the model of faith-full participation in this great mystery of God: God enters our world by participating in our humanity, inviting us to responsively participate in his divinity – his presence, plan and purpose – to make it a living saving reality. Mary responded with courage and faith, making herself available, only asking, ‘”how will this be, since I’m a virgin?” The answer came, “the Holy Spirit will do it in and through you… for nothing is impossible with God.” She simply responded: “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” God continues to enter our world through YOU and me, as “Christ is formed in us”, working through us, by his Spirit (Gal 4:19). Will you make your body, your being, available to God, so God can come into our world? The choice is yours. God is waiting… he needs your consent. The powerful poem below moved me deeply… read it carefully and prayerfully, and make your response to God.

Continue reading 2014 Christmas Day Message

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Why Celebrate Christmas?

Why celebrate Christmas? Are you not sick and tired of the crass commercialisation of this festival? All the marketing of goods that say “buy me!” All the stressful shopping, all the food and drink, the glitzy lights, the expenditure and debt. What do we mean when we say “Happy Christmas”? Is it over indulgence and unhappy hangover?

What does this have to do with “Christ’s mass” – the Christian celebration (“mass”) of the historic birth of the “Christ” (Messiah-King)? Jesus was born as God’s promised King to save the world. Jesus (Hebrew Yeshuah) means “The Lord saves” from sin and consequential judgment. All who trust him by coming under his Kingship are saved.

How can we recover and celebrate THAT historic event, THAT message? Was Jesus really born on 25 December? When and how did contemporary Christmas originate?

Jesus’ first followers spread the good news of his birth and life, death and resurrection, by presenting their message in the cultural forms they came into contact with. E.g. they re-interpreted pagan festivals by infusing the symbols with Christian meaning to convey the good news of Jesus. There is no historic/biblical record of the date of Jesus’ birth. No one knows. The earliest record of Christmas is in the Philocalian Calendar of 354, citing its celebration on 25 December 336 in Rome. Scholars say it was the Christianization of the Roman festival of The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun: at the winter solstice (25 December) the sun began to show an increase in light. Motivated by evangelism (and political power!) the Church in Rome re-interpreted it as The Feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness: the birthday of God’s Light that drives back the darkness of sin and evil. This particular “Christ’s mass”, with the four weeks of advent added later, gained acceptance in the Christian west (Eastern Orthodox celebrate on 6 January).

And the customs/trappings of Christmas? The merry making and exchange of gifts came from the Roman Saturnalia Festival (17-24 December). Christians used it to celebrate Christ’s birth as God’s ultimate gift of himself to the world. The greenery and lights came from the Kelands of January and its solar associations (1 January, the Roman new year). Christians used these symbols to say Christ’s birth brings light and new life. Santa Claus and his reindeers derive from Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (4th century). Little is known of him except that he brought gifts on his sled to children on his feast day, 6 December. He became the patron saint of Russia, of children and of sailors. So giving gifts to children and feeding people in need became associated with Christmas. Continue reading Why Celebrate Christmas?