Read­ing Time: 4 minutes

Come Oh Saviour of the world! Come our Hope! Come the Guide of our world! Come the Redeem­er of man­kind! Come Morn­ing Star and Light of the world! Come Oh Lord, Saviour and Joy in the world! So we prayed dur­ing the Advent. These are cer­tainly words that express our desire to live a more peace­ful life, to be more organ­ised, and to live in a world not par­tic­u­larly marked with con­tra­dic­tions and con­flicts. This is Christ­mas. It is this hope that we are cel­eb­rat­ing. And we must cel­eb­rate it without great joy.

Dear friends,
Surely, you are ready to cel­eb­rate the Christ-mass and the Christ­mas. Hope the feast will help to solid­i­fy our know­ledge and faith. Per­mit me to share these few points (which you may already know) with you. When exactly was Jesus born? Pop­u­lar belief puts his birth on Decem­ber 25th in the year 1 AD. The Gos­pels would have been the sources for the date of the birth of Jesus, but this seems not be their interest. The Chris­ti­an (New) Test­a­ment gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth.  Mark the earli­est Gos­pel (writ­ten about 65–70 AD), begins with the bap­tism of an adult Jesus.  This sug­gests that the interest of the earli­est Chris­ti­ans was on the mis­sion of the Mes­si­ah and not his birth­d­ate. Today, it is the con­trary. We place more accent on our birth­days than our respons­ib­il­it­ies. Two dif­fer­ent worlds and two dif­fer­ent approaches to life. The earli­est men­tion of Decem­ber 25 as Jesus’ birth­day comes from a mid-fourth-cen­tury Roman alman­ac that lists the death dates of vari­ous Chris­ti­an bish­ops and mar­tyrs. The first date lis­ted, Decem­ber 25, is marked: natus Chris­tus in Betleem Judeae – “Christ was born in Beth­le­hem of Judea.”

There are so many opin­ions about the date of Jesus’ birth. Among all, I have decided to men­tion this. As we all know, Christ­mas is an ancient feast. It may not have been called exactly Christ­mas, but the feast is older than Chris­tian­ity. In fact, it pred­ates the con­tem­por­ary Chris­ti­an Christ­mas. Do you remem­ber the pop­u­lar and import­ant fest­iv­al that was cel­eb­rated in the East, the fam­ous Nat­al­is Sol­is Invicti – the birth of Sol Invictus? In the Roman cal­en­dar, the Nat­al­is Sol­is Invicti was held every Decem­ber 25. This feast was impor­ted from the East. Is this the same as the Roman mid-winter Sat­urnalia fest­iv­al in late Decem­ber? What is or what was this feast all about? In the West, the feast retained the same mean­ing that was attrib­uted to it in the East. The Decem­ber 25 is con­sidered to be the time of the year when the sun reaches the low­est point in the sky and at the same time begins to rise again, thus, giv­ing rise to a new cycle. At its resur­gence, the East­ern­ers adorned this Sun. This is the reas­on for the name Nat­al­is Sol­is Invicti. That is, the birth (Nat­al­is – Christmas/birth) of the Invin­cible (Invicti) Sun (Sol­is).

Later, the Roman emper­or Aure­li­an (270–275ca.) intro­duced the feast or cult of the Sol Invictus in Rome. Suc­cess­ively, (dur­ing the time of Pope Liberi­us) in 353, the decision was made to adopt and fix Decem­ber 25 as the birth (Christ­mas) of Jesus. This is what Chris­ti­ans cel­eb­rate till date and always. But what nov­elty did Chris­ti­ans intro­duce to this Pagan fest­iv­al? While the East­ern­ers adored the Sun, Chris­ti­ans wor­ship God who came to our aid in human form (cf. John 1:1). While for the East­ern­ers, an ordin­ary sun resur­faced, for Chris­ti­ans, it is no longer a simple sun, but God Him­self is in our midst through Jesus Christ. It is God who comes to dwell among us (the incarn­a­tion, cf. John 1:14). It is God who now lives in our vari­ous fam­il­ies and lives. Chris­ti­ans have drastic­ally changed the mean­ing of the Pagan feast. Rather than giv­ing hon­our and glory to the cre­ated sun as the Pagans did, Chris­ti­ans now wor­ship, hon­our and glor­i­fy the “I am” (Exod 3:13–14), the “Alpha and Omega” (Rev 1:8).  To Him who Was, who Is, and who will always be, be all praise, glory and hon­our for ever and ever. Amen. The church fath­er Ambrose (ca. 339–397), describes Christ as the true sun, who out­shone the fallen gods of the old order. How beau­ti­ful on the moun­tains are the feet of one who brings Good News, who her­alds peace, brings hap­pi­ness and pro­claims sal­va­tion (cf. First Read­ing, Mass dur­ing the day).

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As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews rightly noted, God has decided to address us dir­ectly through his Son (cf. Second Read­ing, Mass dur­ing the day). This is a great and unique priv­ilege. I wish you a merry Christ­mas, a happy and fruit­ful 2017. My wishes also to your fam­il­ies. Good luck and may God bless you as you cel­eb­rate the birth of your per­son­al saviour. I wish you the joy of Christ­mas which is love, the love of Christ­mas which is hope, and the hope of Christ­mas which is peace. “God of love, Fath­er of all, the dark­ness that covered the earth has giv­en way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. Make us a people of the light. Make us faith­ful to your Word, that we may bring your life to the world. Amen.” Happy Christ­mas. Buon Nat­ale. Sha­lom!

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