It is the 17 December, 2011. In seven days virtually all the countries in the world will begin a few days off work (if they have any) on a holiday that will extend to the end of the year on the evening and night of the 31 December. The following day will begin the year 2012, grimly destined by many to be the last Year of the Human in History.
It is perfectly possible that 2012 will terminate the human calendar, because the United States has a President convinced that the scientists of Iran are developing a nuclear bomb, when they claim merely to develop Iran’s capacity to heat itself with nuclear power. Be that as it may, the Christmas period has begun. The intriguing thing is that Christmas in 2011 means a longish holiday, feasting too much (for those who can afford it), the wrapping of presents in brightly coloured paper, followed by the their opening, and our throwing the remains of several million trees on the carpet for someone else to clear up; Christmas means a drinking binge that might extend from the Office Party to the New Year’s Day hangover; Christmas means certain industries making obscene profits; Christmas means favourite Hollywood comedies being repeated for the nth time on TV; Christmas means special TV programmes that glorify vulgarity over common sense, and endless scenes at dawn between traffic policemen and drunken drivers pretending sobriety; Christmas means turkey (a dry meat tasting of cardboard and plastic, dressed to look its best) served in greasy gravy and surrounded by unsympathetic greens apparently emanating from the capital of the EU;
Christmas means white-bearded, scarlet and ermine-clad Santa Klaus, originally a martyr from Central Europe adopted by the Americans: he rides in a jingling sleigh drawn by antlered animals and mutters “Ho Ho Ho”; he slides down the chimney with presents for the children; Christmas means absolutely everything except the day which celebrates the birth of Jesus.
Those few Christians left unmurdered by non-Christians believe that the man Jesus is divine, of one essence with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (the Trinity). Followers can read about his life in the Gospels of the Bible. By tradition he was born in a cattle shed to Mary, a virgin, during the reign of Augustus Caesar (QV.). He grew up at Nazareth in Galilee, under the strict regime of a traditional Jewish education. In case the blogger does not realise this, or appreciate it, Christ was born a Jew and died a Jew, which might explain the general unpopularity of the Jewish nation, as Christianity in these progressive modern times is a Bad Word. He was almost certainly a carpenter by profession, as was his legal father, one Joseph.
Around 27 A.D. Jesus was baptised in the River Jordan, and later began his mission of preaching, employing parables and proverbs. He is reported to have healed people with ailments. He told his listeners that the Kingdom of God is imminent and advised them to prepare, suggesting those ethical and religious qualities needed by those would enjoy it. He praised charity, sincerity, humility and love. He found twelve companions who would follow him and teach his message. As an orator he was the Billy Graham and Martin Luther King of his difficult and dangerous times. He acted against the advice of his disciples and went to Jerusalem where he was denounced by one of them. He was condemned by a Jewish council and taken in chains to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who was not very interested, but sentenced him to death by crucifixion.
He died in excruciating agony in front of his mother, disciples and friends, and was said by them to have re-appeared three days later alive and well. Thus he became the Messiah or Christ (Hebrew and Greek respectively – the Annointed One), the fulfilment of the hopes of the Jews longing for freedom from Rome. The compassion he showed in life to the poor and downtrodden is today seen as the pattern of Christian conduct. The human drama of his birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection lies at the heart of Christian belief.
This is the man who was born, according to legend and tradition, on the night of 24/25 December, possibly circa 6 B.C. The religion he created has lasted for more than two thousand years. In the newspapers, on the TV, on the radio, on the Internet, it is hard to find a mention of Christ in connection with Christmas. Something has gone doolally somewhere.