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Abraham was an Old Testament prophet who played an integral part in the Christmas story.
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Modern historians usually work backwards in uncovering the origins of Christmas.
For example, historians tell us that the modern Christmas tree grew from use of evergreens by English royalty in the 1830s and 40s, who picked it up from Germans who celebrated with trees for a couple of hundred years after St. Boniface first used the tree as a symbol of eternal life through Jesus Christ, which was a fable crafted by the Church in order to adopt the ancient pagan practice of decorating with evergreens indoors during the season of Yule. This is usually as far back as most historians go, causing some to declare that Christmas “evolved” from a pagan ritual. But where did pagans get their practices? Could it be that they “evolved” over time much as our documented history of the Christmas tree?
That clear pattern of history — where a practice is adopted, changed, distorted and, in fact, evolves — actually showcases a principle of Christmas history even many modern historians fail to grasp. It is a process often referred to as apostasy.
“Apostasy” is a term meaning ” a falling away”. Like Christ, “apostasy” was prophesied from the time of Adam. In simplistic terms, God revealed to Adam what it was he needed to teach his children. Adam passed this on to his children who rebelled from what they were taught or, in other words, they apostatized or fell away from his teachings. Anyone who has teenagers can relate to this idea.
Nowhere is apostasy more plainly evident than in the history of Abraham, that ancient prophet claimed by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike.
~ The Story of Abraham ~
Abram was a righteous man who rejected the idolatrous worship of his father and humbled himself before God. God responded to him and made a covenant with Abram. God showed Abram all his creations and promised that he would become the father of many nations, his seed as numerous as the “stars of heaven”. In making this covenant, Abram’s name was changed to Abraham.
Abraham’s existence is accounted for in the religious history and sacred scriptural texts of Christians, Jews and Muslims. This is an important fact to understand and stands as proof that God fulfilled His part of the covenant with Abraham. He is most famously known as the prophet whose faith was tested when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar of God only to be stopped at the last second by an angel.
Obviously, Abraham had a knowledge, if not a personal relationship with, Jesus Christ. This was centuries before Bethlehem but if the ancient prophets such as Moses, Job, Micah and Isaiah are to be believed the Gospel as they understood it passed down through the generations of time to them from Abraham taught them of the coming Messiah.
Abraham’s son was Isaac and his grandson was Jacob. Both were righteous men who talked with God. Like Abraham, Jacob made a covenant with God and his name was changed in that process to Israel.
Israel had 12 sons. Almost any student of the Old Testament is familiar with these sons who sold their brother Joseph into slavery in Egypt. These men all had the priesthood and were instructed and blessed in the ways of God’s gospel. They were organized into families — called Tribes — and over time they too apostatized. Two of the tribes went south and their history is fairly known.
But the other ten fled north for parts all over the world. They are known as the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel because they had apostatized. The offspring of these great grandsons of Abraham and their families are what created the many “pagan” societies that changed the doctrine, distorted the traditions, and corrupted the truth that originated in the belief of a coming Messiah, an event they were taught to celebrate and anticipate regularly.
These lost tribes are the reason why modern Muslims, Jews and Christians all claim Abraham. All their ancient scriptures and history point straight back to him. And yet their beliefs are all different, their celebrations somewhat unique because they are, in fact, corrupt versions of an original they only have part of.
~ A Modern Example of a Tradition Corrupted ~
Before Christmas 2010 a professor of ancient languages and Biblical literature, Dr. Brent Landau, published a book titled Revelation of the Magi. The book is a first century manuscript purporting to be a first person account of the journey of the Magi. It completely shatters popular perception of who the Magi were. It too is a good example of how an idea behind Christmas has changed over time.
The Revelation of the Magi is not a work of imagination. It is an ancient text written in Syriac that has been stored in the Vatican Library for centuries.
In other words, it is as old or older than some of the texts that make up the New Testament.
The story contained within its thin pages states that the Magi were not men of neighboring Persia or members of a non-Christian-related sect. They were not magicians, as some historians say. They were not mystics.
According to the manuscript the Magi were part of an ancient order dating back to the time of Seth, the third son of Adam, who was called and set apart to escort the Christ to Bethlehem. This text is yet another ancient tie to Christ — and thus, Christmas — before the time of Christ.
Christmas before Christ was an anticipated and celebrated event. Though known to the ancients — prophets, as scripture calls them — can we be sure that the knowledge of Christ was widespread before the time of Christ?
Yes, we can.
Christ, in the sense of this discussion, is not a name. It is a title. It means “Anointed One”. We have explored at length the premortal Christ, His mission, calling and anointed status. That He was known before his coming there is no doubt. Strange as it seems, there are some Christians who don’t realize that Jesus was a Jew. He was a Jew for good reason: Jews, up to that time, had what knowledge God had by tradition imparted on man. They taught (and still teach) the coming of a Messiah. That principle is the very backbone of their beliefs.
In reality, the true God of pagan evolution was born in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — the very God Jesus Christ of the New Testament claimed to be.
This makes Abraham as central a player in the history of Christmas as the Magi and as Mary and Joseph. And it gives many of the world’s modern religions — Jew, Christian and Islam — reason to celebrate Christmas.