Christmas! (By Peter. Also in OUT OF THE MOULD)
That so-called festive season. Weeks of clamouring voices persuading all and sundry that this, that and the other thing is essential to celebrate Christmas in the approved way; to eat, drink, and be merry, and when it’s all over and the hang-ups have dissipated sufficiently, to finally count the cost and the consequences and make the appropriate New Year’s resolutions!
What lies behind the lead up to the 25th December? Is there a documented story which can be followed?
Yes there is!
But you’ll have to go to the Bible to check it out!
At the beginning of Matthew’s gospel there are 1 ½ chapters and at the beginning of Luke’s gospel there are another 1 ½ chapters, - brief and clear. There is also a verse in Galatians chapter four, which says in part: “But when the right time came, the time God decided on, He sent His Son, born of a woman… to buy freedom for us.”
Contained in those few chapters there are some key elements:
angels – God’s messengers.
Mary and Joseph,
a baby born to a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit,
a decree by the Roman Governor, which told the people where to go to be taxed,
a stable and a manger (feeding trough),
some wise men (or magi),
King Herod and the slaughter of boys 2 years and under.
To this list we could add other characters such as an inn keeper, a midwife and a donkey.
The birth of Jesus took place according to God’s perfect timing and provision. Let’s focus on a few practical specifics.
The Roman Governor’s decree had to be obeyed. That meant a lot of travelling on rough, winding, dusty roads by a lot of people.
Mary and Joseph had to travel 75 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Remember that Mary’s time to give birth was very close. Days of travelling on a donkey would have been far from comfortable.
The town of Bethlehem was crowded with hundreds – possibly thousands – of other people. Most of them probably crammed together outside. Where could Mary find shelter and privacy? Imagine Joseph’s concern for his wife.
Think about the urgency, and the offer of a stable in which Jesus could be born: the physical conditions, the animal occupants, the smell, the lack of cleanliness, the rearrangement of straw to make things more comfortable.
Think about the finding of a midwife and the amazement of delivering the baby of a virgin; the pains of child birth.
Think about Joseph’s protective instincts for his wife and this unusual baby boy, and then the sudden appearance of a group of excited shepherds who had been told by angels to seek out this child who had been born in a stable.
Think about the practical needs of this family and the provision of those needs day by day. Did Joseph have to find work? What were Mary’s thoughts every time she looked into the face of Jesus?
And then there was the arrival of the Wise Men. Strangers from another country, who had been led to a very special child by a special star. A newly born king? Their gifts were exactly right for future needs.
Think about King Herod’s anger and jealousy at the Wise Men’s failure to report back to him. Now how could he deal with any threat to his throne?
Think of the speed at which Joseph, Mary with the baby Jesus, were told to pack up and go to Egypt. Think of the anguish suffered by the parents whose baby boys were slaughtered, by order of Herod in a cruel attempt to safeguard his own kingship.
The joy of Jesus’ birth was tempered by considerable discomfort, pain and real everyday learning experiences. God in human flesh began tasting daily life just as we do. The Creator God identified with us in every way.
Think about the facts that:
Christmas is not a Bible word.
No exact date is given for His birth.
There is no mention in the Bible that it was to be a day to be especially remembered.
Contrast what you and I are subjected to at “Christmas” time, with the details above. There’s not much similarity. The more deeply you think, the more questions there are that need answers.
Why is there so much difference?
Humankind is very good at changing things if it results in gaining “advantages” from those changes. By manipulating dates, pagan festivals and commercial activities with a range of traditions from various cultures, etc, it is possible to create new mindsets and new societal attitudes, especially if you make this an on-going strategy.
One of the first things to do is to eliminate God altogether or to introduce substitutes that neutralise Him. Using Santa Claus, the character with the red suit and the white-whiskered face, his sack of goodies and all the other tinsel and glitter, new technology and keeping up with the Joneses, has been very successful. The fact that parents (and others) have to lie to their children to retain the secret of Santa’s identity is unacceptable. Surely this is hypocrisy. If a foot is allowed in the door, what will follow? So much more could be added on this subject!
Another person who has publicly said something similar is Frank Haden, who said this in 1995, and this in 2001. You might find his views interesting.
For many people Christmas is a sad time.
The following is an example that illustrates this:
Author Jon Walker writes:
“I am sitting in a fast food restaurant observing a young girl celebrating an early Christmas with her mother. Her presents are spread out across a table and she just said, “I miss you Mummy.”
“I miss you too, baby,” her mother says. Beyond the table a woman casually, but carefully watches them. Using my journalist’s eye I put it all together. The watching woman is a social worker supervising a structured visit for a mother and child who are doing their best to celebrate Christmas. A few minutes later foster parents arrive and take the little girl home. The mother leaves alone. There’s a darker side to Christmas we rarely acknowledge.
We create this fantasy which seldom matches reality, even in the best of homes.
Many Christmas memories are full of tension – not tinsel. The holiday is just another excuse for Mummy to get drunk, or Daddy to be with his new family … yet another reminder that the one we love is far away or perhaps is never coming back. The suicide rate is extraordinarily high in December. Depression is as common as “Joy to the World”. More people hurt at Christmas than we initially imagine. For those tired of the hollow hope and false fantasies of Christmas, the good news is that God loves us.”
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Christmas! (By Peter. Also in OUT OF THE MOULD)
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