Love is absent from the title of traditional Christmas Carols. While Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843. the oldest Christmas Carol song dates back to 336 AD. St. Hilary of Poitiers composed Jesus Illuminates All which was initially the Latin carol “Jesus refulsit omnium.” Although it’s unclear what inspired St. Hilary to write this song, 336 was the first recorded year when the Church first recognized December 25th as Jesus’ birthday.
So I write these things while I am absent from you, that when I come to you, I may not have to deal sharply in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me [to be employed, however] for building [you] up and not for tearing [you] down, 2 Corinthians 13:10.
Wrapping up his final letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul recognizes why people of faith should celebrate the birth of Christ. According to Paul, Jesus is the source of affection and love. Building upon his words in 1 Corinthians 13, God is love in it’s various forms. While reading Psalm 98, 96:11–12 and Genesis 3:17–18, Isaac Watts wrote the classic hymn Joy to the World. George Frideric Handel put the finishing touches on the modern version of Joy to the World before his death in 1759.
Finally, brethren, farewell (rejoice)! Be strengthened (perfected, completed, made what you ought to be); be encouraged and consoled and comforted; be of the same [agreeable] mind one with another; live in peace, and [then] the God of love [Who is the Source of affection, goodwill, love, and benevolence toward men] and the Author and Promoter of peace will be with you, 2 Corinthians 13:11.
The older I get, the meaning of Christmas to me has evolved. As a child, Christmas was about attending a mass that ended at midnight. When I couldn’t sleep, I took a nap under our tree, eager to open my presents. Yet, now as a parent, I’m more focused on what I give. In college I wrote Christmas letters to encourage and inspire my friends. Now as a father, I feel compelled to give of my time after working 22 of the last 25 days. While my gifts may not always be well received, a relationship with God is the greatest gift of all.
by Jay Mankus