Monday, December 25, 2023
The humble birth of Christ
It's Christmas morning so it is and all is quiet. There are no bells on Christmas day. All we hear is the sound of silence. Christmas means different things to different people. For some it's a time of joy, for others it's a time of sorrow. For many kids in the west it's a time of magic and excitement.
I want to set aside the various reactions to Christmas and talk about the Christian tradition celebrating the birth of Christ. As I said before, Muslims believe Jesus was an important prophet so let's talk about that. For those of us who grew up in the West, we sometimes get tired of hearing the story about his birth over and over again. After all, it's just another birth. What makes his birth different from any other? The same with his crucifixion. Many thieves were crucified.
Isaiah declared that "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
Muslims say he was a prophet. OK so let's say he was a prophet. I had a Jewish friend in Belfast who was very sensitive about the subject of Jesus and felt Jesus was a gift from the Jews to the Gentiles. OK let's run with that. Jesus was a Jew and he was a prophet for the Gentiles.
Let's start with his humble birth. The Bible says that "Caesar Augustus declared that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child." (Luke 2:1-7) OK so we know something about taxes.
Joseph was required to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem right when Mary was ready to give birth. As we know, the place was packed and there was no room in the inn. Jesus was born in a barn and placed in a manger. So it's a humble beginning for an important prophet.
There are a couple of important details there. Joseph and Mary were both of the house of David. That fulfilled a Biblical prophecy. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. That fulfilled another prophecy. Jesus was raised in Nazareth. That fulfilled yet another prophecy. There were a lot of other things that happened between his birth and his baptism by John the Baptist before his mission but those three events all fulfilled biblical prophecies. It reminds me of a pivotal chapter in a book by Josh McDowell called More than a Carpenter. The chapter was Lord, Liar or Lunatic. The question was would he die for a lie and if he was a lunatic, how did he fulfill Biblical prophecies?
I'm not going to get in to that today. Today I just want to salute his humble birth. I'm not really an ivory tower kind of guy. I respect the hood and people who have to work.
Jesus was a common name back then. When Jesus was arrested there was a criminal in prison of the same name. He was Jesus Barabbas. Pilate caved in to the mob and released him before signing Jesus' fate. Jesus is a common name in Hispanic cultures. The term Christ is Greek not Hebrew. It means anointed one. What does that mean? You tell me.
Kings are anointed. Does that make Jesus a king? Perhaps. A king of humble birth? Now that's noble. I'm not going anywhere with this. I'm just saying all religions have a common thread. Treat others the way you want to be treated. You don't need a religion to tell you that.
As the title page of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance declares "And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good. Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?” Peace.