Many have documented that we truly don’t know the date when Jesus was born. Some say it was probably springtime because the shepherds were in the fields. Pope Julius I selected December 25th to celebrate the birth of Christ in the mid fourth century. Possible reasons could be because slaves had a holiday then, or it may have been an attempt to tame wild pagan festivities honoring the Roman god Saturn.
Others point out that the Norse-Germanic Yule season pre-existed Christian Christmas. Historians agree that many symbols of our Christmas—evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, wreaths, plus a Santa-like figure—all originated among the pagans. But even the ancient Norse-Germanic celebration was about the hope of better days. Winter was hard in those northern climates. Starvation and death by exposure were very real dangers. The Yule season celebrated the beginning of lengthening days, which brought the expectation of spring and new life. In this sense, the Norse-Germanic tradition fit the biblical usage of the word “hope.”
Perhaps the Norse-Germanic tradition was a God-given harbinger of our Christmas to come. Regardless, what time could possibly be more appropriate to celebrate the hope brought by Christ’s birth than the darkest days of the year in late December? Interestingly, some Southern Hemisphere cultures have a Christmas celebration in July with evergreen trees and decorations. Those are the darkest, gloomiest days of their year. A “mid-winter Christmas” gives hope for longer and better days ahead.
Kit and Drew celebrating Christmas during July in New Zealand
Why do I love Christmas so much? Certainly, I enjoy the lights, traditions, and festivities. But Christmas to me is about the feeling of hope that motivates us to exercise our faith and demonstrate God’s love. In 1 Timothy 1:1, Paul refers to Jesus as “our hope.” Have you ever seen young parents who weren’t full of hope as they cradled their new baby? Probably not. At Christmas, all of us have a new baby along with Mary and Joseph: the baby Jesus. That baby is God’s gift of hope for each one of us, the essence of Christmas.