Our sovereign God and the story of Christmas
We all know about the birth of Christ. But how did we arrive at 25 December as the day of Christ's birth.
The birth of Jesus is clearly recorded in Matthew 1 and Luke chapter 2. The emergence of the church is seen in Acts 2. However, how December the 25th came to be recognised globally as the date of Christ's birth is a testimony to the sovereignty of the God we serve.
Let's take a little walk through history. History informs us that Emperor Nero set fire to Rome in 65 AD. He subsequently blamed the Christians for the fire before setting out to persecute them. Many Christians including Peter and Paul were killed during his onslaught.
In 70 AD the Roman army destroyed the temple in Jerusalem just as Jesus had prophesised in Matthew 24. The church in Jerusalem was dispersed. Further persecution of the church continued and Christianity looked like it would be extinguished.
Several emperors came and went. In 284 AD Diocletian became emperor and divided the Roman Empire into two administrative areas of East and West. After his death infighting erupted for the control of the whole Empire.
Constantine, Emperor of the West of the Roman Empire was a worshipper of the Sun god. This however did not prevent him from praying to the 'Christian God' for help as he was about to go to battle with Maxentius, the emperor of the East Roman Empire.
Constantine claimed to see a cross appear above the sun in the noon of day with the words 'conquer by this'. He later had a dream where he was told to conquer with the sign of the cross. Constantine had the sign of the cross put on all the shields of his soldiers.
In 312 AD he went to battle against Maxentius at Mulvian Bridge, just outside the city of Roam, and won. Constantine eventually became emperor of the whole of the Roman Empire and Christianity eventually became the offical religion ending decades of persecution for the Christians.
In 321 AD Constantine made the first day of the week, which had previously been a holiday for the sun god, a day for Christians. Sunday became a public holiday. December the 25th, the day reserved in honour of the sun god was also introduced as the day of honouring Jesus' birth.
Was this what God wanted?
A look at how the church was already observing Sunday as the first day of the week will help us shed light on this.
Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (John 20:1, Luke 24:1, 12), appearing to his disciples (John 20:19) and breaking bread with them (John 20: 20-23, Luke 24:48).
It was on the first day of the week that the Holy Spirit directed Paul to gather the believers together (Acts 20:7). Paul established Sunday as times of collecting offerings for other believers (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Sunday also known as the Lord's Day, was when Jesus appeared to the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos (Revelation 1:10).
Constantine was simply an instrument in our Almighty God's hand. The Holy Spirit had already established Sunday as the Lord's Day long before Constantine's reign. He was simply a puppet in God's hand. Arguably we can claim the same for Christmas day. God wants his son to be remembered and honoured throughout the world.
Don't let anyone put you off celebrating Jesus at Christmas. It is a testimony to the sovereign God we serve.