“What is the Christmas Backstory?” by Dr. Audrey Aikens
Most believers basically know we celebrate Christmas as being Jesus’ birthday and are supposed to make Him the joyful reason for the season. But for so many we aren’t knowledgeable about all that was at work to make Him truly the reason.
Most of us don’t have enough revelatory truth to overcome the strongmen at work; working us. They tag-team affecting believers and non-believers alike to make the season as anti-Christ as possible. What do many struggle with? Is it not depression, anger, anxiety or the major culprits of warped expectations and pressure to perform as we try to meet the demands of Christmas?
So, we consider two questions today.
First, what to you is the backstory of Christmas? What do you know scripturally and or traditionally about Christmas?
Then, after we read what I’ve shared with you here from my research of both the scriptural and traditional about Christmas; what have you learned; that helps you see more clearly how to overcome that which comes as strongmen; even at Christmas; as evil present with us; to wear us all out?
Consider the chronological “Christmas story”.
Matthew 1:18-25 Apostle-phrased!
The birth of JESUS CHRIST occurred in this manner; His mother Mary; who was a virgin highly favored of God; was espoused to Joseph. But before their marriage was consummated; she was found to be pregnant, and yet decisively dedicated not only to carry the child but insisting doing so; was God’s will for her.
Now Joseph was a just, patient man; however, he struggled with the warped expectations his religious neighbor’s view of her very public so shameful disgrace brought him. He was pressured to perform; to judge her; according to the letter of the Law; so stone or divorce her; as his right; under circumstances.
But as Joseph lay anxious, pressured to perform; the tag-team formed as a weapon with warped expectations in light of our spiritually decisive dedication; the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. Joseph heard; “Fear not to make Mary your wife; for she’d indeed conceived of the Holy Ghost; would bare God’s Son called JESUS and Emmanuel; interpreted “God with us”; and as prophesied; He’d also save His people from their sins.
Well, Joseph immediately arose to do as instructed and not only did he marry Mary; but decisively dedicated himself to not seek to consummate the marriage until after she gave birth to the Child he’d also obediently call, JESUS.
Luke 2:1-18 Apostle-phrased!
Now, in those same days, Caesar Augustus reigned over the Roman world and decreed a census be taken of the entire empire. He ordered everyone to journey unto their own town to register. Thus, Joseph took the still pregnant Mary and journeyed with her from Nazareth unto Bethlehem as he was of the house and lineage of David.
When they arrived; there were no rooms available in any inn, but Joseph found a stable; and there; Mary delivered her firstborn Son; she then swaddled and placed Him in the manger; and called His name JESUS.
Meantime, shepherds were living in nearby fields, keeping watch over their flocks. And the angel of the Lord appeared to them so that the glory of the Lord shone all about them. It terrified them, but the angel said;
“Do not be afraid! I bring good news as great joy for all people. For today in the City of David, Bethlehem; the Savior has been born. He is the Messiah, the Lord. This shall be your sign; you’ll find Him a baby swaddled laying in a manger”. Then suddenly; a great company of angels joined him. They filled the night with praises, as they sang; “Glory to God in the highest heaven; And on earth; peace to those, upon whom His favor rests!”
When the angels returned into the heavenlies; the shepherds decisively dedicated themselves; to go to Bethlehem and seek to find what they were told they would find. And as they sought, they found; Mary, Joseph and JESUS! When they saw Him for themselves; although they weren’t pressured to perform; they felt led to leave and go spread the joyful Word! Thus, they amazed all; having ears to hear them! They then returned praising God for all they’d felt privileged; to see and to hear; which was exactly as they’d been told. And Mary, as she observed; treasured and pondered it all; in her heart.
Luke 2:21-39 Apostle-phrased!
Back in Jerusalem; there was a holy man named Simeon; known by all as being holy, just and devout. He’d decisively dedicated himself to tarry waiting by the temple entrance for the revealing of the Messiah.
He waited so for years; as the Holy Spirit led him to do. But this day the Spirit revealed he’d not see death; until he bore witness that the Christ had indeed come. The same day; after the shepherds left; after the eight days of Mary’s purification passed, but time according to spiritual protocol; for the family to go to Jerusalem to circumcise and confirm JESUS name officially; an unexpected but Spirit ordered encounter occurred. The family arrived at the temple at the same time as Simeon; thus, he was the first holy man they encountered. And the moment Simeon saw them; he was unctioned to finally function. He reached for and took JESUS in his arms; lifted Him unto the Lord; and blessed Him so; that everyone marveled. He included the amazed parents in his blessing by decisively dedicating them; especially Mary. For he said; “Prepare yourself; for this Child’s coming is set to cause the fall yet rising again of many in Israel; thus, His coming as a sign will be greatly spoken against. And as His hour fully comes; and He’s pressured to perform according to warped expectations of many; it shall feel as a sword pierced your soul. For His decisive dedication to do God’s will; shall reveal the dark evil thoughts; so many hearts shall hold!”
Now as Simeon returned the babe JESUS to His parents and left; a woman named Anna; a prophetess and widow 84 years; approached. She, like Simeon had decisively dedicated herself unto God. The 84 yrs., she’d been a widow; Anna had chosen to live in and not depart temple grounds until she’d see the Christ come. And although she was surely mocked; as if her decisive dedication was based on warped expectation; Anna never wavered. She faithfully served God “there as led”; day and night; fasting and praying for the prophesied revealing. This day as she saw Simeon return JESUS to them; everything changed; she too, moved as one unctioned to function. She immediately began praising God and prophesying JESUS was indeed the chosen one; that “all Israel” should look to; for salvation!
God released both Simeon and Anna after their remaining so decisively dedicated long past when anyone else living in their time would have. But such willingness to present themselves living sacrifices; was exactly why God yoked them “there”; to that working out their own portion of salvation; waiting daily in the temple.
Remember, neither had fainted by giving in to pressures to perform by warped expectation the enemy can heap on us. neither had fainted before their due season came to reap a being used to so spectacularly publicly confirm the prophesied, predestined birth of JESUS; as the Son of God and Messiah; had finally come.
Simeon and Anna would both fade into history, their portion done; but the time for further decisive dedication wasn’t over; just as pressure to perform brought by men’s warped expectations of those God knows as His spiritual minded; wasn’t either.
Joseph and Mary were then led to immediately leave the temple also. They returned to their hometown of Nazareth. There, they remained living; while awaiting any further instruction from the Lord; as to their next ordered step. This is as we all must be willing to do; if decisively dedicated is what we’d also be. The revelatory is; God knows which of our hearts He can entrust the need for such focused spiritual resolve to. They’ll always be those hearts He’s seen as perfect towards and after His own heart; as His wise men were.
Matthew 2:1-4 Apostle-phrased!
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, wise men from the east journeyed unto Jerusalem to inquire; “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we’ve seen His star in the east and came to worship Him?” When Herod heard; he was troubled; so, gathered the chief priests and scribes to demand they tell him where this Christ was supposed to be born?
Now, who were these “wise men”?
Scholars say they were probably from an area now either Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen; southern Turkey; or even northern Syria. In any case; they had to have been led to come; to bring treasures and come decisively dedicated to go do so; although; not Jews.
What is known is; theirs was a long harrowing journey from afar. They uncomfortably rode camelback; many months; and surely found they must needs go through perils of many dangers at great personal cost. Worse most people would’ve called it a quest based on warped expectations. But because they traveled decisively dedicated; in being spiritual-minded; not religious; they were led on.
Now, although they’re usually referred to as “Three Wise Men or Kings”; scripture does not make that distinction; not in how many they were; or they’re being royalty. God usually uses ordinary men to do, be and or give; in extraordinary ways.
It was the Catholic church which proposed there were three, and had to be kings; why? Simply because three types of very expensive gifts were brought to give JESUS; gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Another thing research reveals; is whoever and however many the wise men were; it is very probable; in bringing such expensive gifts on such a harrowing journey; they’d have traveled with many servants as well.
They were also most certainly men of great learning; seers of their times. They’re called “Magi” which is Greek. But the term comes from “Magos” a Persian title priests of their ancient religion; Zoroastrianism had. We’d call them today; “astrologers”. In their day astronomy and astrology were part of the same studies of sciences. These “Magi” then; or “wise men”; would’ve read the stars and followed patterns they’d seen religiously.
Scholars say they were probably rich; held in high esteem in their society and culture, and revelation says they were unmoved by pressure to perform or intimidated by threats or moved by promise of reward. They came decisively dedicated; led only by the Spirit.
The unusual new star they saw in the sky in the east that led them to Jerusalem to find the special king of Israel that was born; has been theoretically called a comet or even a conjunction of planets. But revelation says it was a supernova; a star that suddenly increases greatly in a blinding brightness like that Saul experienced on Damascus road.
Matthew 2:5-11 Apostle-phrased!
Well, Herod’s Chief priests and scribes searched the scriptures and told Herod; the child was supposed to be born in Bethlehem. So, Herod, privately sent for the wise men, to diligently inquire what season had it been when they first saw the star? After Herod had thoroughly intimidated them in his role as king; conducting himself as an evil strongman; he commanded they go to Bethlehem to search pressured to perform by him.
His warped expectation was they’d find the Child and tell him as he pretended, he wished to worship Him too. However, as the wise men departed; the same supernova star they’d seen while back in the east, appeared again. It moved as if as decisively dedicated as they were; for it led them into Nazareth; not Bethlehem.
It was there the star stood still; it highlighted one particular house.
They entered to ask if the young Child was there and immediately rejoiced; for they saw and knew the toddler was JESUS with His mother Mary. And the wise men immediately worshiped Him. Afterwards, opening their treasures, they presented Him first gold; signifying He was worthy as royalty;
Frankincense is a white resin or gum obtained from a tree by incisions made in the bark to cause the gum to flow out. It is extremely fragrant when burned, and used in worship. For it is considered a sweet-smelling offering unto God. Exodus 30:34
Frankincense, is also symbolic of holiness and righteousness.
Thus, the gift of frankincense is considered symbolic of Jesus’ willingness to present Himself a living sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up as that symbolic burnt offering acceptable unto God. Romans 12:1
Myrrh comes from Arabia and obtained in the same manner as frankincense. It was a spice and used to embalm. It was sometimes mixed with wine served as the stupefying “gall”; a potion has given Jesus to drink at His crucifixion. Mark 15:23 & Matthew 27:34
Myrrh is also symbolic of bitterness, suffering, and affliction. And we know the child Jesus grew to must needs go through extreme suffering to accomplish His decease; giving His life as the ultimate price; crucified for “all” who’d choose to believe in Him.
Matthew 2:12-15 Apostle-phrased!
Then consider; that night as they rested; the wise men were warned by the angel of the Lord in a dream; that they were not return to Herod; but instead to travel home; using a different route. They arose and did so!
Now after the wise men left; the angel of the Lord then appeared to Joseph in a dream as well. Joseph was told to “Arise, take JESUS and His mother; and go now and flee into Egypt. And, you must be sure to remain there; until I bring you word that you may return. For know that Herod will now seek to destroy Him!
Their ordered steps were financially provided for by favor preparing the wise men’s hearts; to come decisively dedicated and bring unimagined gifts God intended as preparation to be overcomers. So, Joseph rose immediately to hurriedly awaken Mary and JESUS; and they departed that night; not pursued by fear, but led by grace.
They went as overcomers; because God not only let anything come upon them unaware; but He sent grace as wise men to meet the need “He’d already seen”. Thus, He provided the more than enough; before they even knew the dire straits of dangerous situations Herod’s strongmen would be as they wreaked havoc; terrorizing the region all about.
God provided; not just finance for the journey to Egypt; but “His” wise men’s decisively dedicated gifts were sufficient for an upgrade despite peril; so, comfortable lodging in luxurious peace; they were stayed in Egypt.
Once there; revelation says; they rested trusting in the Lord, and wait on Him till they’d hear; however, the angel of the Lord chose; to come reveal the time to move; in their next ordered steps; to safely return.
Chronologically what happened there? Luke 2:40 Apostle-phrased!
And the Child Jesus grew, waxed strong in spirit, was filled with wisdom; and God’s grace was upon Him.
Matthew 2:16 Apostle-phrased!
Now Herod meantime; when he realized the wise men had mocked him by going their way without revealing where the young child was; he raged uncontrollably. Thus, he sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all the toddlers two tears old and younger; that were found. They even went throughout the coastal cities roundabout.
Matthew 2:17-23 Apostle-phrased!
Thus, Herod’s unreasonably murderous rampage was as “evil present with” the people of God. But the death of all their young sons brought to pass the words of Jeremiah the prophet. For he’d declared; “Voices would be heard lamenting; weeping in great mourning; unable to be comforted; for they will have lost their sons!”
Now eventually; when Herod was reported dead; The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in another dream while they were still in Egypt, saying; “Arise, now; take the young Child and His mother, return to Israel; for they that sought His life are now dead.
And Joseph as was his way; immediately obeyed. He rose and although still fearful, yet he gathered his small family and returned as instructed. When he reached Nazareth, he settled them there again! This then fulfilled the words spoken by the prophets again; “He shall be called a Nazarene!”
This has been the scriptural revelatory back story of the season we celebrate as Christmas! Now consider; how men brought Jesus birth to what it has become now.
The apostles heading the early, mother mega-church in Jerusalem; determined there was no need to identify or make a celebratory distinction about the date of Jesus’ birth.
They were staunchly against following any pagan customs; even celebrating anyone’s actual birthday. Their reason was they felt only martyrs should be honored for the day of martyrdom; as they did for the Lord; which was why the accepted celebrating as Easter.
From their perspective; only dying in refusing to recant Christ; was the only true “birthday”! Even John as head of the Church at Ephesus who suffering being immersed in a vat of boiling oil to be martyred; was never celebrated by the church. Why? Because he didn’t die!
Despite all he suffered and found he must needs endure unto its end; for the name of Jesus; John was never essentially damaged or harmed; instead, he died of old age.
The same was true for those considered captains of the faith who the Lord was with and used to save the lives of many. Abraham, David, Jesus, and Stephen willingly gave up their spirits or the ghost; to fall asleep! Genesis 25:8; Psalm 31:5; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59
However, as the church progressed and spread worldwide the Catholic church took a dominant international role. They were the ones who launched an investigation to identify Jesus’ actual birth date; in order to establish a liturgical or public worship celebration of the event. A diligent search was begun but no sanctioned scrolls, writings or scriptures were ever found giving any clue to the date or actual season He was born. It seemed evident God meant it to spiritually remain an intellectual mystery!
Therefore, understand the origin of December 25 as Jesus’ birth is absolutely not scriptural. The Catholic church chooses it as the date they would celebrate. For December 17 was a popular Roman holiday; “solis invicti nati”; or “Day of birth of the unconquered sun”. Therefore, the church fathers considered it to be a revelation.
Although it was a pagan festival celebrating winter solstice; it also spoke of the resurgence of the sun; the casting away of winter doldrums; and the heralding of springs rebirth of life coming.
The Catholic church also considered the season perfect, but established December 25th as the day to celebrate the Lord’s actual birthday; so, set it apart from pagan celebrations. As they deemed it as perfect; worldwide Christian communities followed suit; embracing Christ Mass as Christmas; Good Friday and Easter; as now major church holidays.
The tradition of Santa Claus also came as a result of Christians embracing secular Christmas celebrations; that the bringing in of all wished for gifts being attributed to the mythical Santa Claus. He also is given power to see and decide just who has been naughty or nice.
T’was the Night Before Christmas, the narrative poem, was first published anonymously in the Troy New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823. It became part of Christmas tradition, along with Jolly St. Nicholas as the patron saint of Christmas, and Santa Claus; all were permanently linked. The poem’s narratives established names of 8 fictional reindeer who powered his sleigh; Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blixen, the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; also endured to become part of Christmas lore.
Lit Christmas Trees were a practice begun by pagans as well. They ritually used evergreens trees, lit with candles during winter celebrations predating Christianity. They saw these trees as symbols to celebrate life remaining, despite the winter deadness, dryness, and doldrums.
Christians first embraced the practice; adopting Yule logs. But they didn’t actually begin bringing whole live trees into their homes until the winters of the 17th century.
Christmas lights; were also embraced as part of Christian tradition 1660 and it all including jolly old St. Nicholas as Santa Claus withstood the passage of time, scholastic and even revelatory truth which discredited it all as being non-scriptural.
Originally candles were used; so, the celebration was responsible for fires occurring among the poor. They tended to reuse homemade candles, so many burned down to nubs on dry tree branches. This made fire danger very real; thus, buckets of water and sand were kept nearby in case tree caught fire which they did often. Because the lit trees were usually placed in front of windows; for people outside the house to see. Why would this make fires so prevalent then?
Outdoor Christmas light displays stemmed from richer folks lighting up their Christmas trees with candles. They hired the poor to vigilantly stand near their trees; to douse any branches catching fire in the windy nights; and/or relight any candles being blown out.
Although Christians looked down on this practice as abusive to the poor; they embraced the tradition. For they setting candle lit trees in their windows; justifying it was so other Christians seeing knew Christian home so could come in to sing Christmas carols.
Christmas and the pressure to perform
Christmas originally was called “Christ’s Mass day”. Christians still embrace it worldwide; from December 24th – 31st; but it, unfortunately, has become one of the most hectic, anxiety filled; commercially driven seasons; so, actually “anti-Christ” by nature!
It is increasingly filled with warped expectations of pressures to perform; to provide the more than which perhaps is not even part of the “ordered” for us. Thus, we can struggle with what’s not being provided. Some even look side-eyed at or will rob God; easily upset when we can’t afford it.
Be not deceived; warped expectations and pressure to perform are part of strongman tag-teams assigned to destroy relationships with God and with our loved ones.
Now that we know the real story of Christmas; what Kingdom Keys; do we need to use; to overcome what still thinks to work; so wear us out so?
Selah; pause and let’s think about it; until our next Celebration of Christmas