The Jewish Origin of Christmas

While Christian tradition builds on deep impulses in the human imagination and memory, its tap root is in the Jewish faith and tradition. For devout Christian, Christmas remains, above all, the celebration of the birth of the Messiah. The word "messiah" comes from Hebrew and means "anointed one". in Hebrew Bible it refers to the King of Israel. In the books of Samuel (1sm 12: 3-5, 24 : 7-11; 2 sm 19: 21-22), Chronicles (2 chr. 6: 42) and the Psalms (2:2, 18:50, 20:6, 28:8 for example) we read the title "messiah" for the ancients kings Saul, David, Solomon and for the kingship in general.

In the prophetic literature of the ancient Jewish faith an ideal future king is presented as part of the longing of the people for a saviour. This image of the saviour is at the heart of the royal ideologies of the ancient East. Whether in Egypt or Syria, Mesopotamia or ancient Israel, every new king played the role of the saviour. The advent of his reign was grounded in hope. He would bring fertility, wealth, freedom, peace, and happiness to all who dwelt in the land.

Two separate expectations for the messiah characterized the hope of ancient Israel in the period leading up to the birth of Jesus. One stream of thought anticipated a national messiah, a descendant of King David, who would liberate the Jewish people from foreign rule and establish a universal kingdom of peace. The other stream of thought anticipated a priestly messiah. He will bring peace to his people and the world through knowledge of God. The community at Qumran from which we get the Dead Sea Scrolls had this hope and image of the messiah.

The concept of the "messiah" was part of the Jewish faith's religious landscape at the time of the birth of Jesus. For the early Christian communities the anticipation of the messiah, who would teach knowledge of God and bring peace to the world, became the center of faith.