Truth is amid the crass Christmas

TWENTY centuries or so after birth of the Christ child, the sounds of global discord seem louder than ever.
It seems that Darwin’s evolutionary theory of survival of the fittest is in action. But is that really true?
Writer and philosopher Thomas Merton, noting that Jesus was born in a barn away from the centres of power and influence, said He is still more easily seen by the culturally marginalised and the poor.
The Jesus born into our world at Christmas was not the God of power, but the God of helplessness and vulnerability.
“His place is with those others for whom there is no room,” Merton said.
“His place is with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, who are tortured, bombed and exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in the world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.”
The birth and life of Jesus didn’t outwardly change the world, but it did change its potential and promised to set us free as individuals.
If you watch TV or listen to the radio tonight, you’ll hear a lot about Christmas spirit. But it’s rarely given any meaning greater than sentimental jollity.
So the rational view of Christmas in this Age of Reason might be of a quaint, if rather outmoded, celebration of indulgence.
The Christ child will not be made all that welcome in many Australian homes tonight.
But He will be in the hearts of all believers. In China, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Christians will risk harassment, beatings, prison and maybe death to meet in underground fellowships tonight.
Would Jesus be impressed that Australians have spent about $45 billion on Christmas gifts? Probably not.
Would he be impressed by the boozy parties carried in His name this Christmas? Probably not.
He demands more than a cursory acknowledgment tonight.
History reveals Jesus from Nazareth was a historical reality. Born during the Roman occupation, he stood at the crossroads of an empire.
He could have become an underground terrorist with the Zealots, a monk with the Essenes or a collaborator with the Jewish priests.
Instead, He chose a strange road and claimed to bear all human burdens for past, present and future.
Celebrate Christmas however you want.
But this year, consider the real reason for all the celebration. Sometimes reality lies in what is not instantly obvious.
Look at the state of world and consider which is more important, Christmas presents or God’s Christmas presence.
If the Jesus story is real, He is the only hope we have.
Christmas — the real Christmas — doesn’t happen automatically. It needs our participation.

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14 thoughts on “Truth is amid the crass Christmas

  1. “Sometimes reality lies in what is not instantly obvious.” Such true words when it comes to the festivities of the season. While I will be more focused on celebrating the more traditional turn of the solstice – the coming of the sun – by spending quality time with family, I wish you all the best in your Christmas celebrations.

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  2. That was my prayer this morning, that we who love the Lord, and for those who are searching for truth, may experience Jesus Christ’s tangible presence this Christmas season. Christ in us, the hope of glory.

    Blessings and Peace

    Love, Mon xxoo

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  3. I just read some article from well-known writer in the Philippines who question/asked where’s the other 23 chromosomes of Jesus Christ, here’s the link. http://www.manilatimes.net/jesus-get-23-chromosomes/151015/ I’m not validating his argument but on our time, right now, with the modern technologies that we had people; intellegence and curiosity became more bold and starting to ask questions that our anscentor didn’t bother to ask.

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    • ChrisV, you might better look to Zechariah, God’s priestly representative, for chromosomes. It doesn’t matter. Spirit and matter are two different things, though they can become as one.

      The more we learn, the more we realise our ignorance. Let’s welcome the birth of this child, no matter how distorted his story has become.

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  4. “History reveals Jesus from Nazareth was a historical reality.”
    Only Christians or religious people accept that today unquestioningly, and they are relying on biased accounts either written or tampered with by apologists.
    It is clear that the story of Jesus was compiled using the Old Testament as a template from which to construct fictitious accounts specifically to give them traction among the Jews and to be able to claim that “prophecies” were fulfilled, something considered essential to a holy book worthy of the times.
    Remove the accounts mirrored (and then exaggerated) from the Old Testament and other books and you don’t have much left at all of the so-called life of Jesus.
    Unfortunately this story has been shoe-horned into society by being promulgated to children and the credulous for two thousand years, which has given it an air of legitimacy it has not earned on its own merits.
    Throw in the blasphemy laws which made it a lethal risk to even question its authenticity over most of that period and it is easy to see how it has lasted. After all, if it is a sin even to analyze critically or demand proof (the new transforming idea of the scientific age) then how can anything ever be tested or changed?
    But the simplest critierion for truth, and the easiest to put into practice, is the common sense test. And it fails that on so many levels.
    Reason? say believers. We don’t need that. We have so much faith we KNOW the truth. Sorry but the mere fact that other people with different faiths KNOW the complete opposite shows clearly that faith is no way to know anything. It’s only a way to CLAIM you know something that you don’t and cannot know.

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  5. Jesus was not born in a stable, says theologian
    Rev Ian Paul writes on his blog that birth of Christ story is based on a misreading of the New Testament

    The birth of Christ may be the most famous Bible story of all, reprised annually in nativity scenes across the world each Christmas: Jesus was born in a stable, because there was no room at the inn. But evangelical scholar Rev Ian Paul has argued that the entire story may be based on a misreading of the New Testament, reviving an ancient theory that Jesus was not, in fact, born in a stable.

    “I am sorry to spoil your preparations for Christmas before the Christmas lights have even gone up,” Rev Paul, a theologian and former Dean of Studies at St John’s theological college, Nottingham, has written on his personal blog. “But Jesus wasn’t born in a stable, and, curiously, the New Testament hardly even hints that this might have been the case.”

    Paul argues that the Greek word, kataluma, usually translated as “Inn” was in fact used for a reception room in a private house – the same term is used to describe the “upper room” where Jesus and his disciples ate the last supper. An entirely different word, pandocheion, is used to describe an “Inn” or any other place where strangers are welcomed.

    Even if there were an inn in Bethlehem, Paul argues, Joseph and Mary would not have been staying there. The only reason for them to travel to Bethlehem for the census was because he had family there and if he did, the customs of first-century Palestine required him to stay with relatives and not with strangers.

    In that context, the kataluma where he stayed would not have been an Inn, but a guest room in the house of the family where Joseph and Mary were staying. That could very well have been full with other relatives who had arrived before them.

    “The actual design of Palestinian homes (even to the present day) makes sense of the whole story,” Paul writes. “Most families would live in a single-room house, with a lower compartment for animals to be brought in at night, and either a room at the back for visitors, or space on the roof. The family living area would usually have hollows in the ground, filled with straw, in the living area, where the animals would feed.”

    So Jesus would not have been born in a detached stable, but in the lower floor of a peasant house, where the animals were kept.

    This interpretation is hardly new. The earliest scholar to put it forward was the Spaniard Francisco Sánchez de las Brozas, in 1584. He was denounced to the inquisition for his pains and reprimanded by them, though not actually burned, tortured or imprisoned as might have happened to heretics.

    Since then the theory has repeatedly been raised by New Testament greek scholars aware that kataluma does not actually mean “Inn”. Paul himself first wrote about the misinterpretation of the word in 2013, and re-posted his theory this year “because I have been struck again how often the message of Christmas is summed up as ‘Jesus was born in a stable’, both within and beyond the church.”

    For Paul, the significance of his reinterpretation of the story is that it undercuts the idea that what made Jesus remarkable was that he was born to humble, outcast parents. “In the Christmas story, Jesus is not sad and lonely, some distance away in the manger, needing our sympathy. He is in the midst of the family, and all the visiting relations, right in the thick of it and demanding our attention,” he writes.

    “This should fundamentally change our approach to enacting and preaching on the nativity.”

    Paul says that what is extraordinary about the birth of Jesus is that it shows God shifting from the divine to the human. If that happened in a crowded family home, the message is preserved. If it happened in an isolated stable, “that just shows that the descent was from a respected human to a disrespected human,” he argues.

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