We are rapidly approaching one of the most beautiful and wonderful times of the year for Christians —the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. It has become a custom to celebrate that occasion with a combination of grandeur and stress. The grandeur is exhibited by the effervescent display of adornments, music, and celebration with family and friends —frequently religious celebrations also. The stress involves many issues, the greatest of which revolve around two things — resources and effort. All to frequently people become stressed out trying to stretch their meager budget to meet the requirements of a ‘perfect gift’ for someone. The effort comes in the searching and searching for that ‘perfect budgetary gift’.
In near total contrast to the ‘meager monetary expenditure and major emphasis on the religious’ celebration of that event which I experienced as a child and young man, today’s celebrations have escalated into the exact opposite — major stressful monetary outlay and hoopla but little emphasis on the basic meaning of the event itself. I think I know why.
The fairytale picture surrounding the birth and early life of Jesus as presented by Matthew (2: 1-23, paraphrased) in his gospel is very exciting to little children — astrologers (magi, wise men, kings) following Jesus’ star to where it stood over where Jesus lay. But first the star directed them to King Herod where they inquired of the whereabouts of the new-born king. Consultation with his own sages prompted Herod to instruct the astrologers that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, to go ‘check him out’, and report back to him. The star then guided the astrologers to Bethlehem where the found Jesus, worshiped him, and presented him with gifts. After being warned in a dream of Herod’s ill intentions, they went back home by another rout. Also, Jesus’ father, Joseph was warned in a dream, and fled to Egypt with Jesus and Mary. Herod then ordered all males two years old and younger in the Bethlehem area to be slaughtered in the hopes that Jesus would be included.
There are several points of interest to be noted here. Of the four gospel writers, Matthew is the only one to describe such an astrological series of events. Mark and John do not describe the birth of Jesus at all and Luke contradicts Matthew completely by saying that, after the days of purification were completed, Joseph and Mary took Jesus directly back home to Nazareth.
It has been well established that astrology, the pseudoscience of astronomy has permeated the development of religious beliefs from day one. Astrology was accepted as the absolute ‘science’ of how the celestial bodies influenced human lives and livelihoods from two to three thousand years BC onward. The Zodiac had been developed centuries before Jesus and was known to be influential in determining much about each person’s relationship with God and nature. The Chinese, Babylonians, Egyptians, Indians, and others had somewhat differing adaptations and interpretations, but the bottom line was basically the same — celestial bodies exerted a major controlling effect on what happened here on earth. Researchers note that much of the Old Testament is filled with astrological impressions. In fact, many scholars have suggested that the twelve tribes of Israel are based on the twelve zodiac figures —what about the twelve apostles?
Roman Catholic history shows conclusively that Astrology was accepted as absolute ‘science’ until well after Galileo proved them wrong about many things. In fact, there still exists a huge Zodiac embedded in the stone of Saint Peters Square in Rome. It has been noted that the Zodiac was used to determine the best timing for building Saint Peter’s Basilica. Taylor, in his book, Sex in History, noted that up until about the year 1800, the Pope always had ‘an astute astrologer’ at his side when making major decisions.
Also, of major note is the fact that there is an entire liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church and its near mimickers celebrating the Epiphany (enlightenment) based on Matthew’s description of the astrologers from afar.
My contention is that all this is total nonsense — tantamount to ‘Santa Claus’ for adults. It is a fairy tale. Any rational being knows that stars cannot come close enough to ‘stand over’ a birth site or any other site for that matter. The nearest star to our earth is 93 million miles away. As I have noted many, many times before, for any such event to occur, God would have to change his nature. Since God is A Perfect Rational Being, no chance is possible in God. If it were possible, all truth would instantly be abolished and likely, the entire universe would implode immediately because nothing could function as designed.
So, without doubt, the Christmas story, from that standpoint, is a total myth. Mind you, I did not say nor imply that Jesus is a myth — far from it. As an historical, figure, Jesus is as real as dirt. I am convinced, again without doubt, that almost everything written about Jesus, which we have today, is also a myth. I am convinced it was written by people who were determined to have their mythical predictions about a messiah found in the Old Testament come true. We have absolutely no way of knowing what Matthew or any early writer actually wrote — all we have is a single copy made from literally hundreds of copies made over a two-hundred-year period by people who were fighting and arguing among themselves about who Jesus was and exactly what he said and did. We have someone’s ‘last word’ and, even that has been written, altered, and rewritten ad nauseum by biased writers who had ‘an axe to grind’ during the last fifteen hundred years — oh, how many ‘versions’ of the Bible there have been!
So, how do we or should we think about Christmas? We know that Jesus was not born on December 25. That, simply, is a date set aside by the Church to counteract a pagan ritual occurring on that same date. Regardless, it is a date of celebration of Jesus’ birth, and for that reason, it deserves our utmost attention —after all, he is the most important person ever in our lives. He is the one who, contrary to his Jewish upbringing, recognized the presence of our Perfect God in all his creation, and more importantly, had the courage and bravery to say so very emphatically. He knew he would be crucified for saying so but his unbelievable insight and courage drove him to be our liberator. He knew and understood that God is Perfect Love, that God exists in all his creation, that God could not possibly reject himself, that there is, therefore, no such thing as a sin against God — an idea with which Moses had impaled his people for purposes of control, and which later was used by the Jewish hierarchy to extract the poor peasants’ wealth. He had the courage to call them, to their faces, hypocrites, a den of thieves, a brood of vipers. He had hoped that his apostles understood him and would ‘spread that gospel’ to all the earth — quite obviously, he was a total failure. Just look at what we have today — a world exactly resembling what Jesus saw, only worse. Those who plagiarized and bastardized his name for personal gain are much more rampant and, I might say venomous, in their approach than ever. Religion created in his name has been torn, and split so many times and ways that he and his teaching of love are unrecognizable— seemingly, not one of them knows the Jesus I know — not one confesses a God of Perfect Rationality and Love.
So, why has Christmas turned into a period of mass turmoil laden with stress rather than a calm glorious celebration? I’ll give you a hint — it’s called secularism. And why secularism? Plainly, as people have become more educated, they have recognized the mythology proposed by so-called Christianity — religion has become more and more irrelevant on a larger and larger scale. Consequently, they turn to the only thing that gives them consolation and pleasure, Santa Claus for the children and gifts to everyone else. Christmas has become a season for giving —where does it end? Not a day goes by that we do not get a minimum of five requests for charitable contributions. Those requests usually start in late November and continue until after Christmas—of course, we have already contributed to most of them earlier in the year, but that matters little –they prey on our sympathy.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a glorious celebration of the birthday of ‘the real Jesus’? —it likely will never happen and that is sad indeed.
If we were allowed to recognize Jesus’ real mission and intention, and recognize the real God, we would be offering them our only legitimate prayer — ‘thank you dear God for my life, my sustenance, and my eternity in you, and thank you dear Jesus for liberating me from the ‘vengeful’ God of the Jews’.
I have expanded and expounded that philosophy extensively in my three books, Wilderness Cry, Peace in Spirituality, and Provocative Catholic. Growing Up In Fancy Farm Kentucky is a humorous presentation of my childhood life in the Fancy Farm Community. All available Amazon-Kindle and from me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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