Sunday, December 16, 2012
The Controversy (and confusion) that is Christmas
Inevitably, as I drive through bumper to bumper traffic that comes with every December evening, I start muttering: "It's the most horrible time of the year...."
Lest I be misconstrued, I also enjoy the season. But I draw the line when the circumstances border on the absurd - the traffic on the roads are practically unbearable. Everything comes to a standstill, simply because everyone is either holding a Christmas party or attending one. And the pressures to prepare, purchase and plan for what's supposed to be a holiday become obnoxiously exasperating.
No wonder Ebenezer Scrooge "bah, humbug!"-ed his way through that time of the year.
Despite all that, it does become a great opportunity for finding clarity in all the chaos and confusion. It's the time of year when good friends draw near and start asking those pointed questions about Christmas. And as they seek, they find, and as they ask, they are given answers - sometimes not the ones they are looking for.
For instance - my recent discovery that the symbolic representative of the season, Santa Clause - St. Nicholas in a previous understanding -was a prominent Christian apologist who actually was present in the Council of Nicea widens quite a few eyes. Not only do they get shocked that I believe that Santa exists, but I knew what he did, and how we thought in a similar fashion. Of course, Rudolph had to fly out the window, but St. NIck deserves his place - never mind if he didn't really wear that red costume to deliver gifts better than FEDEX.
Another pointed issue that gets taken up is the matter of the date approximating the birth of our Lord Jesus - presumably because it's supposed to be the real reason for the season, right?
Wrong again. (Buzzer sound.)
Take a cue from the nativity narrative. The shepherds were watching their flocks by night.
In Bethlehem, where the paschal lambs were being raised by Levitical priest/shepherds, the herds were often gathered into small structures with mangers where they were kept warm during winter nights. When they were brought out in the fields at night, it was clearly a different time of the year - and it was also the time of the year, when they were lambing, or the ewes were delivering their young lambs. Traditionally, this is during the summertime, making the birth of the Lord Jesus much, much earlier than that of the traditional December.
Furthermore, as Joseph and Mary were travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census declared by Quirinius, it would be much more difficult to travel in the winter time, as opposed to the summer, which would be more a more accomodating time of the year for a very pregnant teenage mother to be - on her way to her in laws to be (remember, they were yet betrothed, not married) and in their cramped residence, delivered her child in the only place they could be accommodated, as the house was packed with family that also arrived for the census.
While everyone now frowns because that time of the year that everyone holds so dear is the wrong one - they miss the most crucial point of the timing of the Lord Jesus' birth.
The Lord Jesus arrives in Bethlehem - the town where the paschal lambs for the passover sacrifice are raised - during lambing season, when the lambs are born.
Thirty three years later, He is killed on a crucifix during the Passover week, and dies at exactly the time when the passover lambs began being slaughtered.
Truly, the Lamb of God.
Which brings me to the point of what makes this all significant, and how we all missed it in a big way.
The Lord Jesus, we know, came to die for our sins to reconcile us with His Heavenly Father.
But we fail to see that He literally came to fulfill the promises that the Almighty God made.
These promises we also refer to as prophecies. There are approximately over 300 prophecies that the Lord Jesus fulfilled. Some scholars have narrowed them down to fourty four that directly relate to Him.
But what are the chances of that happening? That someone would be born of a maiden (alma in Hebrew) in Bethlehem, of the House of David, at the exact moment in history as written down in the book of Daniel some six hundred years before it was projected to happen - in Daniel 9:25 - where the exact timeline is defined, and so many others.
Mathematical calculations cited in “The Case for Christ: The Fingerprint evidence” point to a probability of even just eight of the forty four prophecies confirmed fulfilled would be one chance in one hundred million billion. That would be just for eight!
For one man to arrive at a moment in history in order to fulfill all of those things written in a compilation of books known today as the Old Testament - the Hebrew Tanakh - over a period of several thousand years - the odds are mind boggling. But they were fulfilled - in the person of the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
For all of the business that is Christmas, and no matter how trivial the understanding is of most people of the significance what’s supposed to be the season is that it’s not just about the birth of a child in Bethlehem.
It’s the strongest confirmation that the God of the universe, who has made it His project to reveal Himself to His creation, has confirmed that He did what He promised, and provided a way out for humanity, where humanity would never be able to meet Him at His level.
He came down through His Son, and met humanity at humanity’s level.
And kept His promise.
And because of that, we can believe that the rest of the promises/prophecies that were also written down WILL be kept. If we know what these are, we can count on them as well to be kept. Unlike the learned religious leaders at that time, who apparently did not know what to expect - completely missed it and unwittingly played a big part of fulfilling some of those prophecies as well, in the event of the Messiah’s atoning death.
Enjoy the gatherings, the gift giving, the music, and the change of pace.
But don’t miss out on the promises. Because they will be kept.