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The Advent of the Christ

28 Nov

The reason we celebrate Christmas at all should be obvious: The birth of Christ in the “fullness of time” of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most significant event in human history. Despite secularist efforts to change how we reckon time, even our calendar is divided by what occurred “Before Christ” and after Christ, “in the year of the Lord.”

But why December 25th? And when did the Church work this into her own liturgical calendar? After all, the Bible is far from clear on the point.

The conventional explanation is that December 25th was chosen by the Church as a means of “baptizing” the pagan worship in ancient Rome and thereby evangelize the culture. It is true that on December 25, 274 A.D. the Roman emperor Aurelian declared the sun god the principal patron of the empire. This gave rise to the feast of Sol Invictus, or the Birth of the Unconquered Sun. The date falls on the Winter Solstice, which of course would be fitting to celebrate the birth of the sun.

And so the common view is the Church adopted this date for the feast day of the birth of Jesus in the fourth century. Christians of all generations have understood Christ to be the “light of the world,” the “Sun of Justice,” and “morning star,” so selecting this date would be in essence a counterpoint to paganism. If that in fact were the case, that doesn’t render Christmas a “pagan feast.” But rather than pursue that line of discussion, the more interesting question to me is whether in fact this is really how it all came about. Continue reading