Monday, December 24, 2007

Thoughts on Christmas Eve

So here we are, celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem on December 25th in year zero...

Except for a few, small troublesome facts.

Jesus was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a later literary invention by one of the Evangelists (Matthew) who wanted to place Jesus's birth in the City of David to show he was of the line of David. The "census" that supposedly initiated the pilgrimage that places the "Holy Family" in Bethlehem is also a literary invention. It simply did not take place!

One thing the early writers agree on: Jesus was born during the reign of Herod The Great. Two problems here. For one, Herod the Great died in the year we call 4 BC. If Jesus was born during Herod's reign, he had to have been born in 4 BC or earlier. Also, the "massacre of the innocents" under Herod seems to also be undocumented literary invention (though, it seems, not entirely out of character for Herod).

For most of the early centuries, Jesus's date of birth was not fixed on the yearly calendar. Faced with pagan solstice ceremonies and the vestiges of the Roman's Saturnalia, Christmas was developed to take the place of these heathen celebrations. The three kings of the East (who are not in the gospel, although a group of magi are) were invented or embellished at any rate to literalize this capitulation of the pagans. The "celebration" of Christmas is a relatively new event in the life of the Church. There were several Protestant denominations that held the celebration of Christmas in contempt even unto the 19th century!

So go ahead, celebrate Christmas... but let's get the facts straight. The when and how of Jesus's birth is not as important as the message he preached: God is Love. Love your enemies. Care for the poor. Renounce your worldly goods, pool your resources, and live together in harmony. And what if you encounter resistance? Love them. Love the resistors. Turn the other cheek. And if you have any question over what degree this should be taken to, then look to His example, he who DIED ON A CROSS while still loving those who put him to death. In other words, there is no question of degree. You love all the way to the end. Period. No exceptions.

I still find no religions that follow this doctrine in the world today.