Christmas celebrates the anniversary of the birth of Jesus. Christians understand this as the “incarnation,” which means that God became human in the form of Jesus Christ. As it says in the Gospel of John, “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1: 14). Christmas is a time of gratitude for this incarnation of God into the world and remembrance of the importance of incarnating or embodying our own faith through love, generosity, and service, to continue making this world a better place.
The celebration of Christmas began around the 3rd century CE, when there was a desire to celebrate the historical aspects of the life of Jesus. December 25 was selected as it was at a time when the Romans celebrated the return of the sun after the winter solstice. In some parts of the Christian world other dates became more important, such as January 6 (the feast of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan in the eastern part of the empire and the arrival of the three Kings in the West). Many Orthodox Christian churches celebrate Christmas on or near January 7, following the Julian calendar.
In the West, the celebration of Christmas continues for 12 days following December 25 until Epiphany on January 6, which commemorates the visit of the three kings to Bethlehem. In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, it states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which has an important symbolic connection to the House of David.
The festivities of Christmas with carols, candles, and trees are more modern ways of celebrating a holiday which is pivotal to most Christians. Ultimately, the intent of these celebrations is to emphasize the important of Jesus’ birth and how Christians are expected to follow the example of Jesus as one who proclaimed love, peace and justice in line with the great prophets of the Jewish faith.