Christmas Day means different things to different people. For Christians in America and many others, the 25th day of December is the day we have set aside to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. But what was it like during that first Christmas? Of course, we were not there, and we can only imagine how it was, but our doing so helps us to capture the spirit of Christmas. In the Bible, God has given us several accounts of that first Christmas.
Consider the climate that must have existed prior to Christ’s birth. For approximately 400 years, there is no record in the Bible of the prophets having received a word from God. We can estimate this duration of silence based on the time between the events in the book of Malachi in the Old Testament and those in the book of Matthew in the New Testament. During this period, the people read the Old Testament manuscripts, which were filled with prophecies about this Messiah who was to come, but the dialogue between God and men had ceased. “Were the recorded Messianic prophecies true, or is it that they were not to be taken literally?” Some of the Jews must have asked themselves that question.
Prior to Christ’s birth, the religious leaders in the Jewish community were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. During Jesus’ day, He referred to them as hypocrites (Matthew 23:23). They were quick to judge others, and to throw the book at them, but oftentimes, these religious leaders knew what the Scriptures said but not what they meant. In effect, before Christ’s birth, the blind were leading the blind.
Also, prior to Christ’s birth, there were a few people who knew the Messiah would soon be born. For instance, the Bible speaks of a man by the name of Simeon, a just and devout man. He was waiting for the coming of this Messiah that the Old Testament spoke of. “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). And so the tempo was building toward that day in which God manifested in the flesh would be born, live on earth for 30 years or more, and change the course of humanity for an eternity.
And then—finally—it happened. Christ the Savior was born! Imagine it. When the word was spread throughout the Jewish community that the Savior had been born, it must have resurrected all of the hope residing in the multitude of Messianic promises that were recorded in the Scriptures. This is what characterized the spirit of that first Christmas. May that same spirit rule in the hearts of the faithful followers of Christ this Christmas.