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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

16 December 2005

The Meaning of Christmas

Q: What is the meaning of Christmas?

Do you mean the word or the observance?

Christmas (the day) celebrates the birth in Bethlehem of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, as the Savior of mankind. In much of the Christian Church, this holy day (holiday) is formally known as the “Feast of the Nativity.” The Christmas Season, also known as the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” begins on 25 December and continues through 5 January.

The next day is the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the Wise Men. The Epiphany Season varies in length, continuing until the penitential season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

Christ's MassThe word Christmas is a contraction of “Christ’s Mass.” It comes to us from Latin via Old English, where it was known as Cristes mæsse.

“Christ Mass” emphasizes the Church’s celebration with Holy Communion — the very body and blood of our Lord — of the coming of Christ in human flesh.

See Aardvark Alley’s essay for more details on Christ Mass.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I myself am a believer, but why is it that in the Catholic Encyclopedia the word Christmas means the death of Christ. Therefore when one says "Merry Christmas" they are saying "Happy/ joyous death of Christ"
Don't get me wrong I do firmly believe in what the Bible says about the birth of Jesus, but I think before we go around saying and doing things, we need to find out how, when, and where these customs begun before we pass things on to our children.

13 December, 2008 23:20  

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