And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men. – Luke 2:8-14
Today is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Not everybody celebrates it, just most of Europe and North America, South America and Australia. Not even all those people – some of them think we’re celebrating winter solstice, and others are Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu or one of them other weird religions. But you know what I mean.
We don’t know much about this guy Jesus, and a lot of what we think we know is wrong. He probably wasn’t really born on December 25th, and He wasn’t born in 1 A.D. either. There are numerous historical records that remain from that place and time, but none of them mention the guy whose birthday we’re celebrating.
I believe there really was a man who walked this Earth that we now know as Jesus. He may have been a composite of two or more men. He is responsible for (or at least credited with) starting one of the world’s major religions. We know He was probably Jewish. It would probably surprise some people to know that many of His teachings weren’t original, they come straight from the Old Testament.
Supposedly Jesus worked miracles. The Gospels say He healed the sick, raised the dead, turned water into wine, cast out demons and fed the multitudes with a few loaves a bread and some fish. He seems to have attracted a few followers. That wine trick probably helped.
Israel at that time was controlled by Rome. Many of the people of Israel believed that God would sent them a messiah who would lead them to overthrow the Romans and become their new King. Jesus, however, does not appear to have had any interest in leading a revolution. But that didn’t stop the local authorities from executing him. Allegedly he rose from the dead, but that’s Easter and not the topic of this post.
Jesus may have been Jewish, but after His death His followers didn’t have much luck converting Jews to the new religion He left behind. They had much better luck with Gentiles, and the religion spread slowly through the region and the rest of the Roman Empire.
At first they were ignored, then they were prosecuted, until ultimately Christianity was adopted as the official religion of Rome. By the time the Council of Nicea was done even Jesus wouldn’t recognize the church he started.
For the next 1500 years or so the Christian church worked hand-in-glove with government. The original church split and split again. Numerous religious wars were fought. All manner of terrible things were done in the name of the man we call the “Prince of Peace.” Today we honor Jesus by letting a creepy pedophile who spies on our children sneak into our homes and leave them presents.
Seriously though, Christmas is what we make of it. It can be a time of crass consumerism and bickering over nativity scenes in public parks, or it can be a time to share with family or friends.
By mutual agreement I quit going to church a long time ago. But I’m not hostile to religion and I am respectful to the beliefs of others as long as they leave me alone. I think there are a lot of good things to be found in the actual teachings of the man we call Jesus.
Whatever your beliefs, here’s hoping everyone has a very merry Christmas, from all of us here at The Crawdad Hole!