Christmas is an interesting holiday as most spend it attending to matters that have nothing to do with it’s origin or intent. Even the secular traditions have largely fallen prey to jingle bells on cash registers and Christmas cheer that’s 86 proof or more. Sadly, those with the most joy this year are banksters. But I’d like to step back from all that and remind us all that this is the day that we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
[Luke 1:1-14, NASB]
This, in my opinion is not history.Quirinus was governor of Syria at the wrong time and there was no census during his governorship. But that’s not important to me. Most of our traditions are mistaken or unrelated, as well. Shepherds would have pastured their flocks outside Bethlehem in the spring, not in mid winter. December 25 was originally adopted in the Roman Empire because it was Mithras’ (the ‘divine’ man-god of a popular religion) birthday. It was probably kept due to its close proximity to Saturnalia and the solstice. Our Christmas tree, wreaths, yule logs and mistletoe (my personal favorite) are all pagan traditions we have adopted. But that’s not important to me either.
What is important to me is that around 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus was born. According to my faith, he was divine. If you don’t agree, that’s OK. If you believe something else, that’s OK. If you believe in nothing, that’s OK too. Believing in nothing requires the strongest faith of all.
I’d like you to consider a few things about Jesus’ life that make him special. First he was a revolutionary.He taught that love trumps power. He taught that wealth is a hindrance, not a blessing, and had far more concern for the poor than for the rich. He honored the people in his society who were the most despised: lepers, tax collectors, and prostitutes for example. He never called for war. He never condemned people for shortcomings in their lives. He tolerated all except the intolerant, the religious hypocrites, the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious right of his day. He condemned them for meddling in people’s daily lives, trying to control people with piety codes, and pretending to he righteous, when they were just as flawed as anyone else.
My point is this. No matter what you believe about Jesus’ divinity, his example is worthy for us to emulate, especially his overriding concern for the poor and his opposition to those who use religion to dominate others.
On a gentler theme, here’s some holiday music for your enjoyment. First is the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, performed by the Johann Strauss Orchestra and the Harlem Gospel Choir:
Next is Oh Holy Night, performed by Celtic Woman:
Merry Christmas to you all. May you be as blessed as you have blessed me.