Advent Day 36 of 50: Son and Sun Collide
Armenia was the first nation to accept Christianity. By decree of the King, Tirdat, Christianity became the official religion of Armenia in the year 301. In a pluralistic society such as ours it is difficult to imagine or even conceive of a state mandated religion. That it happened in the 4th century and that it was so well received that it became the dominant force binding and building the people of Armenia since then is what miracles are made of.
Twelve years after Armenia’s acceptance of Christianity, the Emperor Constantine proclaimed Christianity as an acceptable religion in the Roman Empire. From that point on people were allowed to freely practice Christianity one of a handful of religions.
Christians celebrated the Nativity – the Birth of Jesus Christ – on January 6. It was a combined celebration of Jesus’ birth, the Visit of the Magi and the Baptism of Christ. Essentially, January 6 was the date to celebrate all of the events from the Birth of Jesus to his baptism.
Within the Roman Empire there were groups that worshipped the Sun, and the Winter Solstice was a true celebration of the Birth of the Sun. To move people away from Sun worship to the Son worship of the new Christianity religion, Emperor Constantine changed the date of the Nativity to December 25, twelve days prior to January 6. The twelve day period accommodated pilgrims who wanted to celebrate the Birth of Christ in Bethlehem and his Baptism at the River Jordan. It was a 12 day journey between the two pilgrimage sites by foot.
In Armenia there was no need to separate the feasts and January 6 is the date that the Birth and Baptism of Christ are celebrated to this day under the name Theophany, that is, The Revelation of God.
Let us pray from the Morning Hour of Worship of the Armenian Church, We have become joyful after those days when you humbled us, and those years when we saw evil. Look, Lord, upon your servants and upon the work of your hands and lead their sons. May the light of the Lord God be upon us. Justify for us the work of our hands, O Lord, and prosper the work of our hands. Amen.
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