Today the church remembers The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day December 25.The historic date of Jesus's birth is unknown, but from the early days of the church this seemed a particularly appropriate time to remember the event. It is the period of the winter solstice, a dramatic and important natural phenomenon in much of Europe: the time when the days begin to lengthen and the light of the sun begins to stage its comeback. It was already the joyful feast of Saturnalia to the Romans. What better time to celebrate with gladness the coming of "The Light of the World"? (The second collect for Christmas Day and the gospel lesson from John 1 carry out this theme.) The gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke record the events surrounding Jesus's birth of Mary in Bethlehem, and although we are not given a date in the modern sense, Luke is about as explicit as any ancient historian when he writes that Jesus was born in the days of Caesar Augustus, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Since the days when these gospels were written, every generation has contributed to the rich fabric of Christmas tradition. Perhaps Christmas has been too embellished, so that the bold simplicity of the actual event is sometimes lost. Yet, even amid all the commercialization of a modern Christmas, it is still possible for families and churches to celebrate the joyful mystery of our Lord's birth, when "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." Keep us from taking for granted the astounding mystery and wonder of Christmas. Amen.
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