True Meaning of Christmas


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What does the Bible really say about the birth of Jesus? How did the celebration of Christmas become associated with things like Santa Claus and decorated trees? In The True Meaning of Christmas: The Birth of Jesus and the Origins of the Season, biblical scholar Michael Patrick Barber offers an inspiring look at the Bible's accounts of Jesus' birth and the development of the Christmas season. Along the way, he answers numerous questions, including:

• How is the Christmas story related to ancient Jewish expectations?
• Why is Jesus said to be laid in a "manger"?
• Who are the Magi?
• What is the mysterious Christmas star?
• How did December 25th become the date of Christmas?
• How did Saint Nicholas become "Santa Claus"?

As Barber explains, though some of the answers to these questions may be surprising, only by understanding the message at the heart of Christmas can we fully enter into the joy it promises.

Contents Summary

"I'll Be Home for Christmas": An Introduction
The Magic of Christmas
The True Meaning of Christmas
Christmas as "Christ's Mass"
What Everyone Should Know About Christmas
"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel": Ancient Jewish Hopes for a Messiah
Captive Israel
Jewish Expectations for a Messiah
Freedom from Sin

"Let Nothing You Dismay": Gabriel's Announcement to Zechariah
Zechariah's Temple Service and Gabriel's Appearance
The God Who Answers Prayers
Prepare the Way of the Lord

"Christ Is Born of Mary": Gabriel's Announcement to Mary
Christ the Lord
Full of Grace
The Lord Is with You

"Round Yon Virgin": Why a Virgin Mother
A Virgin Shall Conceive
Mary as Virgin
The New Creation

"What Child Is This?": Joseph and His Dilemma
The Royal Carpenter
Joseph's Response to Mary's Pregnancy
Joseph's Example of Faith

"Away in a Manger": Jesus' Birth in Bethlehem
The Little Town of Bethlehem
The Manger Scene
The Manger and the Bread of Life

"Angels We Have Heard on High": The Shepherds in the Fields
Why Shepherds
Tidings of Comfort and Joy
Heaven's Army and Peace on Earth

"Star of Wonder": The Mysterious Magi
Who Are the Magi?
The Christmas Star
The Cradle and the Cross

"Christ Our God to Earth Descending": The Historical Figure of Jesus
The Claims of Jesus Mythicists
Jesus in Historical Memory
The Gospels and History

"The First Nowell": How December 25 Became Christmas
The Time of Jesus' Birth in the Gospel of Luke
Christmas and Paganism
Ancient Attempts to Date Jesus' Birth
The Winter Solstice

"It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas": The Development of the Christmas Celebration
Christmas as a Season
Celebrating Christmas Among the Pagans
The War on Christmas

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