Christmas greetings

When I preside over jury trials, I instruct the jury members that they “should not decide any issue merely by counting the number of witnesses who have testified on opposing sides. The testimony of one witness, which you believe, is sufficient to prove any fact.” 

The well-known Christmas narrative of wise men travelling to meet Jesus as a child is barely referenced in the Bible. Although I personally like the language of the Christmas story in Luke better, the account in Matthew is the only gospel that mentions wise men. 

In spite of a well-known hymn, we do not actually know whether there were three wise men or kings that traversed afar. We do know, however, they brought gifts consisting of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

I do not recall anyone saying, “Hey, this wise men thing might not be true because it’s only in the book of Matthew.” Sometimes one witness statement is enough.

The origin of Christmas or “Christ’s Mass” is somewhat obscure. It became part of the liturgical calendar by tradition and St. Francis of Assisi allegedly introduced the nativity scene as a symbolic representation of the birth of Jesus. While Jesus Christ clearly commanded his followers to remember his death and to celebrate His resurrection, to the best of my knowledge, He did not request we commemorate His birth. 

Perhaps for this reason, celebrating Christmas has been controversial. In 1659, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony actually made it a crime to celebrate Christmas. Although Alabama declared Christmas as a legal holiday in 1836, as did Louisiana in 1838, Christmas was not an official federal holiday until President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation making it so in 1870. He viewed Christmas as a way to bond people from both the North and the South over a common holiday. 

While Christmas is now a “legal” holiday, hopefully no part of your Christmas season will involve lawyers, judges, pleadings, or courtrooms. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or all three, stay safe and have fun.

Judge Gerald A. Williams is the justice of the peace for the North Valley Justice Court. That court’s jurisdiction includes Glendale, Phoenix, Anthem and Desert Hills.