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Christmas Christmas Traditions:
Past and Present

A Christmas Narration

This Christmas program tells the history of various Christmas traditions.
It also suggests certain Christmas songs to be inserted.

By Ken Raggio

You and I are here tonight because of one dramatic miracle that took place 2,000 years ago. A virgin gave birth to a baby boy, and He just happened to be God. Billions of people around the world have said they believe the story is true. If Jesus really is who this Bible says He is, we ought to worship Him. We ought to praise, honor and adore Him. So we have come here tonight to study the whole matter afresh and anew. We will look at many of the Christmas Traditions: Past and Present. And as we do, we will surely realize - He really is the reason for the season. O, Come Let Us Adore Him!

SONG: O, Come Let Us Adore Him!

O Come let us adore Him
O Come let us adore Him
O Come let us adore Him - Christ the Lord!

Christ’s Mass and St. Nicholas

The word Christmas comes from the Old English term - Christ's Mass. It was the Roman Catholics who introduced the celebration of Christ Mass to the world. As you will see, most of the traditions we see today, were born, not in Jesus’ time, nor in the days of the Apostles, but at least several centuries later.

Even the story of the original Santa Claus comes from the Roman Catholics. The original Santa Claus was the Catholic Bishop Nicholas of Myra, Asia in the fourth century. One story about him is that he was a very benevolent man, but very shy. He often gave help to the needy, but in an anonymous way. There were two little girls in a needy family that Saint Nicholas wanted to help, so he secretly climbed the roof of their house and dropped a purse of money down their chimney. As the story goes, they had hung their stockings to dry, and the purse of money fell into one of the stockings. The hanging of Christmas stockings is a custom that continues to this day. It has also become a custom to give gifts on Saint Nicholas day, which was December 6. In some countries, this tradition has continued. In ours, it was transferred to December 25, and eventually was tied to Christmas.

But it is important that we put the emphasis back where it belongs. Not on Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, but on Jesus Christ. The truth is that no one ever gave a better gift to the world than when God stepped down from His throne and became as one of us. We really need to recognize the fact that He is both the Giver and the Gift. Yes - the...

SONG: BEST GIFT OF ALL IS JESUS! (Song with soundtrack)

Here is Dixie Raggio singing "The Best Gift Of All Is Jesus"

Was Jesus born on December 25th?

Was Jesus really born on December 25th? The fact is, the early Church did not know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, neither was there any celebration of it. It is not even likely that Jesus was born in the dead of winter, because the scripture tells that shepherds were watching their flocks - and that would hardly be likely during that time of year.

Even the Calendar is wrong about the year. In calculating the change from B.C. to A.D, Dionysius Exiguus misplaced the birth date of Jesus by at least four years. Herod the Great, who slew the innocent male children of Bethlehem, died in 4 B.C., so the birth of Jesus had to be earlier.

Another record showed that the Roman census took place around 6 BC. So the actual birth of Jesus would have been between 5 and 7 years B.C. The Egyptian Coptic Church traditions say that Mary and Joseph and the baby spent three and a half years in Egypt. Adding that to the death of Herod would again reinforce the idea that Jesus was born 5-7 years BC.

Later, we will show that history confirms the appearance of an unusual star at about the same time. We know that God confirms His Word with signs following. All the signs pointed to the coming Messiah. No wonder the Angel came when he did and declared to the shepherds that in the city of David, a Savior was born, which was Christ the Lord. It all came about on a beautiful midnight clear.

SONG: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

It came upon a midnight clear That glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth To touch their harps of gold
Peace on the earth, goodwill to men From heaven’s all gracious King
The world in solemn stillness lay To hear the angels sing

Angels we have heard on high Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply Echoing their joyous strains
Gloria - In Excelsis Deo Gloria - In Excelsis Deo

Hark! The herald angels sing. Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled
Joyful all ye nations rise Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic hosts proclaim Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark! The herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!

The Star of Bethlehem

We do not know the exact date of Jesus’ birth. We do know that there is an error in the Roman calendar that would place Jesus’ birth back to at least 5-7 years B.C. There were ancient magi, ancestors of the modern Zoroastrians, in the old land of Persia, which is now Iran. They knew Bible prophecies foretelling a Jewish Messiah. They also were students of astronomy following signs in the Pisces constellation that they believed meant something ominous in the "Western Country." Cuneiform writings found in Babylon show they were tracking remarkable heavenly events at the time. Three of these wise men were called by Herod to investigate the occurences, because rumors were circulating everywhere. The three men’s names were Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar.

Modern astronomers tell us that in 5 B.C. a nova was visible for over seventy days. A NOVA is a white dwarf star that undergoes a thermonuclear explosion that causes it to be over fifty thousand times brighter than normal. Its brightness could be seen as far away as China, and its brightness would have endured just long enough for the magi to make their 1-2 month journey from Persia to Bethlehem. Other ancient Chinese writings reported a Comet sweeping slowly through the skies earning the expression "broom star." It might have been the movement of this comet that prompted the Magi. Either way, we have compelling evidence that something truly significant took place at that time.

The ancient prophet Balaam had said a Star would rise out of Jacob. We know now that the star was God’s sign to the world that Jesus was being born in Bethlehem. In fact, Jesus himself is the real Star of Bethlehem. He is the Beautiful...

SONG: Star of Bethlehem.

How Winter Solstice became the Christmas Holidays

Since December 25th has the shortest daylight of the year, it was called the End of Darkness, or the Winter Solstice, by the ancient Romans. The people celebrated to distract themselves from the long, depressing nights of winter. Street plays were performed, and festivities were rampant. In 273 AD, the Emperor of Rome invented a pagan Sun god, Invictus, and an entire cult celebrated his birthday on December 25th. In the fourth century, the Roman Catholic Pope Julius the First urged the transition from pagan festivals to Christian festivals and officially designated December 25th to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Romans had for centuries celebrated the winter solstice from December 17th to the Kalends of January, (the Roman New Year.) The name Calendar comes from the kalends of January.

Notice that none of these traditions are even directly connected with Jesus Christ. It is only because the birth of Jesus began to be celebrated in December that all these celebrations began to be associated with Jesus and Christmas. If the Winter Solstice was the End of Darkness to the Romans, then the birth of Jesus would be like the Morning Dawn. And that it was on that Bethlehem Morning.

SONG: Bethlehem Morning

Yule Tide and the Twelve Days of Christmas

Our Christmas references to Yule-tide and the twelve days of Christmas spring from a unique bit of history. One of the first Catholic Popes sent a missionary named Augustine to Northern Europe. He was to convert the barbaric Anglo-Saxon tribes to Christianity. He suggested that Christian traditions should replace local traditions.

Saint Augustine found the Ancient Druids of what is now Scotland in a mid-winter revelry. It was a twelve day celebration of their sun-god. The festivities were called Yule, from an old Germanic root word, geol. It is still a pagan observation by the occult Wiccans. But Augustine originally taught them not to worship the S-U-N but the S-O-N, Jesus Christ!

The miracle of Jesus’ being born of the Holy Spirit to a virgin girl is the greatest event in all human history. When God made the first Adam, He breathed on a lump of lifeless clay, and man became a living soul. But when God made the second Adam, He breathed upon a young virgin named Mary, and she conceived the Holy Child Jesus! Adam sinned away his life, and by that one man, death came to the entire human race. But Jesus Christ knew no sin, and by Him, all men can know everlasting life. May that Holy Breath of Heaven breathe on us all!

SONG: Breath of Heaven

The Gifts of the Wise Men

The gifts the wise men brought to the Christ child were Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Gold represented the deity, God with us. Frankincense represented the incense of our prayers, indicating that Jesus would be our intercessor. The myrrh symbolized death, representing the price Jesus would pay for our salvation at Calvary. All three gifts spoke a message loudly and clearly, Jesus is God, Jesus is our Intercessor, and Jesus is the Sacrifice for our sins. Oh, What a precious promise. Oh, what a gift of love. Lying in a manger in Bethlehem.

SONG: Precious Promise

Where did Christmas Cards begin?

It is always a pleasure to receive Christmas cards from old friends and family. It might be more of a chore to send them though. The custom of Christmas cards can be traced to the year 1843 in London, England. Sir Henry Cole was the founder and director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (named after the Queen and her husband). Sir Henry Cole had 1,000 cards designed and printed by a man named Mr. John C Horsley. The card was entitled ‘Brimming Cheer’. It pictured a family celebrating Christmas by giving gifts of clothing and food to the poor.

Six years later, in 1849, an English artist, William Egley, produced a very popular card. Nowadays, hundreds of millions of Christmas cards of all shapes, sizes and colors are sent around the world. Amazingly, many of those cards never mention anything about Jesus, but then we realize that not all men have faith in Jesus. Even the scriptures tell us that Jesus came unto His own - the Jews - and they didn’t believe that He was Messiah.

How could a baby be born to a virgin mother? How could Messiah be laid in a manger? Why would they lodge in a stable? What was the meaning of the star? So many unusual things were going on. It certainly seemed to be a strange way for God to save the world!

SONG: Strange Way to Save the World

The origins of the Christmas tree.

One of the most time-honored customs at Christmas time is the putting up of a Christmas tree. Many ancient cultures had winter-time celebrations. Houses were decorated in evergreens: holly, ivy and mistletoe - each somehow representing continuing life and good fortune.

But History tells about a Christian missionary from England named Boniface. He went to Germany to teach the people about Jesus Christ. Germany was a pagan land, and the people worshipped many gods. In the month of December, Boniface encountered a group of people under an oak tree. They were preparing to sacrifice a small child to please their god. Boniface rushed in and rescued the child and chopped down the oak tree. At the foot of the oak tree was a small fir tree. He cut the little fir down, and gave it to the people as a symbol of life. He called it the tree of the Christ-child.

Centuries later, in December 1540, Martin Luther, the famous Protestant, performed a similar ritual by cutting down a fir tree and taking it into his home. He said that the evergreen reminded him that life continued even in the hardship of winter, when most of nature seemed to be subdued. He attached several small candles to illuminate the tree to symbolize the light of Jesus.

Finally, in the middle of the nineteenth century, it is said that the Christmas tree was introduced to England by Queen Victoria’s husband, the German-born Prince Albert. Its popularity increased from then on as a part of the celebration of Christmas. Today, the evergreen tree symbolizes the continuation of life. It is no wonder that this tree became associated with the birth of Jesus, because Jesus is the true tree of life. No one else but Jesus could make an honest claim to be the source of life.

Joseph was espoused to Mary, and planned to be married soon. But when the angel announced that she was with child of the Holy Ghost, Joseph felt the pressure of his role. What an awesome thing, for a man to become the father to the Son of God!

Christmas Caroling

Christmas caroling is a fairly recent addition in history. We imagine snow-covered streets with carolers gathering under a lantern singing Christmas hymns. That image was created by another Victorian-era personality, Charles Dickens. His famous "Christmas Story" is where it all began.

The very Christmas carols themselves have an interesting beginning. Hundreds of years ago, the word ‘carole’ meant a dance of celebration! It had nothing to do with Christmas or hymns. Many serious musicians created great compositions about Christmas. But the carols were more often folk-tunes created by common people.

One well-known song by Fredrick Mendelssohn was actually written as a tune to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the printing press. The people borrowed the tune and created a Christmas hymn entitled "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." Mendelssohn complained that the music was too "soldier-like and buxom" to be used as a carol. But its popularity persists into our day.

Another famous carol was created almost by accident. In Obendorf, Germany in 1818, the church organ failed because a hungry mouse had eaten into its bellows. The choir would have to be cancelled on Sunday. But the director, Joseph Mohr, in desperation took a poem to the church organist to see if he could create a tune on the guitar. He could, and he did. In one evening, the beautiful song, Silent Night, Holy Night was written. It was later performed with great success. It was quickly taken up by other churches all over Germany. People wanted to sing. They wanted to make music. They wanted to celebrate. They wanted to celebrate the child - the new born King!

What or Who are we really Celebrating?

Christmas celebrations are not called for in the Bible. God did not tell us to commemorate the birth of Jesus every year. We do not do so because we have to, but because we want to.

Truth is, a lot of what we do at Christmas time is completely unnecessary. In some cases, it might be better if we refrained from some activities.

A lot of Christmas things don’t reflect at all on Jesus. Some things even work against Him. So why do we go through this year after year?

The sad fact is that Christmas holidays have done little to promote true faith in Jesus Christ.

If anything, the merchants have kept alive the festivities, while the message of Jesus has been lost in the shuffle.

It was never the duty of the merchants or society in general to keep the story of Jesus on track. It is the task of the Church to preach the Gospel to every creature. So we are here tonight to turn our thoughts back to where they really belong.

The baby in the manger. The son of God. Emmanuel. God with us.

SONG: Emmanuel, God with Us

How did Christmas become so commercial?

Maybe the biggest reason Christmas is such a secular event is that holidays are seldom as sacred as they are supposed to be. Everybody has to go to the shopping malls. They have to decorate the tree and the house. The Christmas Cards have to be signed and mailed. There are parties and dinners and visits to family and friends in far away places.

We finally run out of time to think about Jesus! After all, you never see His name in the stores. Jesus isn’t mentioned in all the advertising. The stores just want your money. And that’s about all.

So it is up to us to remember what is important. We always say we should keep Christ in Christmas. But His name isn’t even Christ! His name is Jesus. And He isn’t a baby in a manger any more. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! Let’s try really hard to remember that this year. KING JESUS is His name!

SONG: King Jesus Is His Name

Isaiah’s Prophecy

Yes, KING JESUS is His name! As a lowly baby, He was a Prince. But as the exalted Father, Jesus is KING. God was in Christ. The KING was in the PRINCE, reconciling the world to Himself. Jesus instructed His disciples never to be troubled. He taught them that there were many mansions in our Father’s house. He said that He was going to prepare a place for all who believed on Him. And He said that if He went away, He would return. That fact speaks to us a profound truth. If He came once, He WILL come again. And when He comes back, the government shall be upon His shoulder. And of the increase of His Kingdom and Power there will be no end. And His name shall be called WONDERFUL, COUNSELOR, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. AND HE SHALL REIGN FOREVER!

SONG: The Hallelujah Chorus

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Here are two more Christmas songs that our family did at Christmas time in 2001. Maybe you will want to use one of them.

Here is a song medley, "Above All" and "Daystar," sung by father-and-son duo, Chris and Blaine Slaughter. Ken Raggio is on the keyboard. Performed at a Christmas Concert 2010 at Bridge City United Pentecostal Church (Texas).


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