The True Meaning of Christmas

The Birth of Jesus and the Origins of the Season

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What does the Bible really say about the birth of Jesus? How did the celebration of Christmas
become associated with things like Santa Claus and decorated trees? In The True Meaning of
Christmas: The Birth of Jesus and the Origins of the Season, biblical scholar Michael Patrick
Barber offers an inspiring look at the Bible’s accounts of Jesus’ birth and the development of the
Christmas season. Along the way, he answers numerous questions, including:

• How is the Christmas story related to ancient Jewish expectations?
• Why is Jesus said to be laid in a “manger”?
• Who are the Magi?
• What is the mysterious Christmas star?
• How did December 25th become the date of Christmas?
• How did Saint Nicholas become “Santa Claus”?

As Barber explains, though some of the answers to these questions may be surprising, only by
understanding the message at the heart of Christmas can we fully enter into the joy it promises.

Contents Summary

  1. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”: An Introduction
    The Magic of Christmas
    The True Meaning of Christmas
    Christmas as “Christ’s Mass”
    What Everyone Should Know About Christmas
  2. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”: Ancient Jewish Hopes for a Messiah
    Captive Israel
    Jewish Expectations for a Messiah
    Freedom from Sin

  3. “Let Nothing You Dismay”: Gabriel’s Announcement to Zechariah
    Zechariah’s Temple Service and Gabriel’s Appearance
    The God Who Answers Prayers
    Prepare the Way of the Lord

  4. “Christ Is Born of Mary”: Gabriel’s Announcement to Mary
    Christ the Lord
    Full of Grace
    The Lord Is with You

  5. “Round Yon Virgin”: Why a Virgin Mother
    A Virgin Shall Conceive
    Mary as Virgin
    The New Creation

  6. “What Child Is This?”: Joseph and His Dilemma
    The Royal Carpenter
    Joseph’s Response to Mary’s Pregnancy
    Joseph’s Example of Faith

  7. “Away in a Manger”: Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem
    The Little Town of Bethlehem
    The Manger Scene
    The Manger and the Bread of Life

  8. “Angels We Have Heard on High”: The Shepherds in the Fields
    Why Shepherds
    Tidings of Comfort and Joy
    Heaven’s Army and Peace on Earth

  9. “Star of Wonder”: The Mysterious Magi
    Who Are the Magi?
    The Christmas Star
    The Cradle and the Cross

  10. “Christ Our God to Earth Descending”: The Historical Figure of Jesus
    The Claims of Jesus Mythicists
    Jesus in Historical Memory
    The Gospels and History

  11. “The First Nowell”: How December 25 Became Christmas
    The Time of Jesus’ Birth in the Gospel of Luke
    Christmas and Paganism
    Ancient Attempts to Date Jesus’ Birth
    The Winter Solstice

  12. “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas”: The Development of the Christmas Celebration
    Christmas as a Season
    Celebrating Christmas Among the Pagans
    The War on Christmas

Michael Patrick Barber

Michael Barrber, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Scripture & Theology at the Augustine Institute in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

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