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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Roman Politics and the Triumph of Christianity

For Christendom, it is that time of the year, again.

There was no room in the Inn and behold a child was born in a manger. Wise men and humble shepherds bowed in adoration. But with the birth of a child, an empire was threatened and a King sought to commit murder.

For many centuries, the Romans worshipped legion of deities – gods and goddesses. Many of these deities came from the lands conquered through the ever-expanding Roman empire.

Two religions, Christianity and Judaism refused to honor “Roman gods” and idolize Roman emperors. As a result, Jews and Christians endured much hardship and relentless persecutions for centuries. Famous Christian martyrs of this period include Saint John and Saint Peter.

In the 4th century, God sent a vision of light at midday and an Emperor was converted to Christianity. Emperor Constantine adopted God’s symbol (the intersection of the Greek letter chi and rho) and wore it against every hostile power he faced.

After his vision, he immediately declared Christianity legal in the Edict of Milan. He completely abandoned paganism and put his full force of favor towards advancing the cause of the Church of Christ. He commissioned the construction of several grand cathedrals and emboldened Christians to worship openly in ancient Rome.

Constantine also made Sunday an official Roman holiday so that more people could attend church, and made churches tax-exempt.

He made December 25th, the birthday of the unconquered pagan Sun god, the official holiday. Today we celebrate the days as Christmas –the birthday of Jesus. His mother, Helen, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and began excavations to recover artifacts in the city. This popularized the tradition of pilgrimages in Christianity.

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