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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Friday, December 27 2002 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster Remains of the day

By noon on December 26 all the Christmas decorations at Starbucks, my daily haunt during my haitus from the office, had been taken down, a pile of tacky fake evergreens and the "clearance shelf" of leftover Christmas gift items being the only reminders of the day of days. Of course there wasn't a single Christmas or even "seasonal" song on the muzak during the two hours I sipped my morning venti coffees of the day.

"This Day In History," which I subscribe to through an Internet service, described the history of the elevation of Christmas/Nativity from something not observed at all in the early church to a major feast about three centuries after its founding. Roman Emporer Constantine, it suggests, urged the bishops to convert the important pagan festivals of the sun, the December solstice celebrations, to a Christian observance, which would be more "politic" than just declaring the sun festival illegal from the time of his and the empire's conversion from anti- to pro-Christianity. Even today's Orthodox Nativity hymns suggest this possible origin of the feast. The most-used one refers to an Old Testament prophecy referring to the Saviour as "the Sun [s-u-n] of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2).

There's no record of the bishops' initial responses, whether any of them resisted or feared it would be a novelty and therefore a heresy. It must be remembered that at the time, martyrdom was greatly valued, persecution was the glory of the church, and any who disagreed would not likely have been intimidated by Constantine's power. But most likely they generally thought Constantine was right and it was high time that both Christ's birth and even his conception (which is not what Roman Catholics mean when they refer to the "immaculate conception," which I always guessed when I was Protestant) be put on the church calendar. If there had been resistance, it would most likely would have been recorded. The oldest documentary evidence of the Nativity being observed by the church dates from the same decade as the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), for which we have "minutes," and the fact that the feast was not on the council's agenda can be taken as proof that its addition was not controversial in the church.

Some Protestants, though never the dominant Lutherans, European Calvinists, and Anglicans in the first century of Protestant history, tried to delete Christmas from their practices, claiming it was of pagan origin and lacked biblical support. New England Puritans for a while even made its observance illegal. But they were defeated by popular opinion, no doubt reinforced by the large amount of New Testament narrative on the generation and birth of Jesus. Certainly if the New Testament suggests how any then-new religious celebration should be observed, it's that blessed event.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

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 It doesn't pay to drop out of Sunday school

An elderly woman had just returned to her home from an evening of church services when she was startled by an intruder. She caught the man in the act of robbing her home of its valuables and yelled, "Stop! Acts 2:38!" (Repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.) The burglar stopped in his tracks. The woman calmly called the police and explained what she had done. As the officer cuffed the man to take him in, he asked the burglar, "Why did you just stand there? All the old lady did was yell a scripture to you."

"Scripture?" replied the burglar. "She said she had an ax and two 38's!"

—Sent by Bill Dalrymple

Thought for today

Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years.... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart.

—George Mathhew Adams

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