Rejoice, prophecy is fulfilled, Jesus is born, the long awaited Messiah has come. How do we know? The Bible tells us so. Research tells us that the United States is a country where most believe in a supreme being. We owe that belief to the King James Bible whose 409th birthday we celebrate this year.

During this season of the year we acknowledge the birth of the Christ child whose story is told in the books of Matthew and Luke in the King James Bible. That book’s impact on our lives necessitates knowing how that Bible came into existence.

In 1611, England was a small island kingdom in the north Atlantic with a population of less than one million. Over the next 300 years England created an empire that stretched around the globe. It was said that “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”

The man, James I of England, was as unlikely a religious leader as England was an unlikely world power. He was a Scott and not English by birth, and was raised as a Catholic. His mother, Queen Mary of Scotland, was a second cousin to Queen Elizabeth of England. Queen Elizabeth never married and when she died she left no heir. To fill her vacant throne the English leadership looked for her oldest male relative and found James, who was then King of Scotland. He became the King of England and ruled both countries from London.

King James found England to be a country with an almost equal Catholic-Protestant population and a religious split so great that violence often erupted between the religious groups. Churches, both Catholic and Protestant, were burned and priests and ministers were killed.

After a thorough study of the situation, King James decided to try to bring the two warring factions together by creating a common Bible to be used by both Catholics and Protestants. It took months of wide ranging discussions, disagreements and compromise but the new Bible came into being. Peace did not come immediately between the religious factions but things were better.

Prior to this time in history, Spain had been the dominate force in the world. They had gained great wealth with their discovery and exploration of the new world. England was coming late to challenge Spain on the high seas. With the war between Spain and England that ended with the English defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, England stepped forward to become the new leader in the world. As luck, or God’s plan, would have it, that is when circumstances were beginning to come together for the creation of the new Bible.

As England planted their flag all around the globe, they took along their English language, their culture and their King James Bible. Soon, the result of King James’ efforts to solve the religious divisions of England began to be felt around the world in all British territories.

For those of us who believe that “God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,” there is no happenstance. The creation of the King James Bible was both planned and ordained as was England’s rise to world leadership that gave them the opportunity to share their Bible around the globe.

As you celebrate the Christmas season with your family this year give a thought to James I of England and the Bible he created that has enabled all of us to know the story of Christmas.

You can reach Dr. Mark L. Hopkins at marklhopkins@att.net. Books by Hopkins, “Journey to Gettysburg, The Wounds of War, The World as it was When Jesus Came,” and “Facts & Opinions on the Issues of our Time,” can be acquired at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and through the email above.