During the period when the old Roman empire was at the height of its power — that is, in the days of Caesar Augustus — Dec. 25 was celebrated as a festival of the unconquered sun. The festivities, of course, were held during the week of the winter solstice to celebrate the slow lengthening of the days as the sun began its long march northward again.
Throughout ancient Rome, the week preceding Dec. 25 was the Saturnalia, a time for general merrymaking and pagan revelry. It wasn’t until about 300 A.D. that the church of Rome decided to commemorate the birthday of Christ on Dec. 25, thereby joining a celebration of the sun and light with the birth of an infant considered to be the Light of the World to millions of faithful Christians.
Throughout the holiday season, it often seems that the true meaning of Christmas is obscured by a tendency to celebrate Dec. 25 in a fashion similar to that of the ancient Romans. On this Christmas morning, let us not forget the Christmas story and the message of peace and hope contained within it:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.
And all went to be taxed, everyone in his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David.
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for him in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around about them; and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tiding of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying.
Glory to God in the highest and on Earth, peace and good will toward men.
The preceding editorial message of peace and goodwill toward men is published annually by The Daily Sentinel.