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Doing His own marketing

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It’s such a pity that there is such a cloud of commercialism on the one hand, and cynicism on the other, surrounding Christmas

File image: Xinhua/Roman (yxb)

Today there is some good news, and some bad news. The bad news is that this is the last instalment of my ramblings for 2018. Or is that your good news?

But the “other” good news is that next week this time, for those celebrating, it will be Christmas!

It’s such a pity that there is such a cloud of commercialism on the one hand, and cynicism on the other, surrounding Christmas.

People are so cheesed off with this day that it has become “Xmas” in advertising, and “Festive Greetings” on “Xmas” cards.

The birth of the one who billions consider to be their Saviour has become a touchy topic over the last while.

Look, let’s just put it out there – for the record it is highly unlikely that Jesus was born in December. For one thing, according to the Biblical narrative, shepherds were out in the fields, but there is no way that shepherds would have their sheep out in the fields at night during mid-winter.

Furthermore, the Bible doesn’t indicate when Jesus was born, and with no Biblical directive to celebrate his birth and no mention in the Gospels of the correct date, it wasn’t until around 400 years after his departing earth that church leaders embraced the holiday.

I could go on and delve into the darker information, of how the midwinter solstice was linked to pagan customs and sun worship, but I would prefer to take a look at the day from another angle, with your permission.

If ever there was a being who has had negative publicity, it is the God of the Bible. According to author Richard Dawkins: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Strong words indeed; and yet, alarmingly, this is the deity that is actually embraced by many of God’s followers.

However, when one looks at this perception of God, one has to realise that He was dealing with pretty damaged people. At one time millions of slaves had to be led from Egypt to Palestine. These slaves had been conditioned to respond to might and power; and had God presented Himself at that time as kind, gracious and merciful they would almost certainly have rejected Him – they wanted a warrior God, a God stronger than the gods of their enemies a God to be feared.

So, in order to keep the lines of communication open with these damaged people, God – the way I understand it – condescended to take on the role of a warrior God.

It’s everywhere in the Bible, God gives direction, the people demand option B, and God – probably sighing – allows that option.

But, when the time was right God decided to show His true character. And what better way to do that than to entrust himself, as a helpless baby, to the care of broken, damaged, sinful humans? After all, who is afraid of a baby (besides a father who has to change a soiled nappy)?

The young man Jesus set an amazing example for humans to follow – he came to show people how to relate to each other.

Sadly, many of his so-called followers failed to catch the lesson.

Jesus’ lessons were not taught by instruction, but by demonstration. When God initially related to humanity through instruction it resulted in divided, arrogant religious divisions.

Jesus, however, proved that the blueprint for humanity was without a flaw; and though humankind’s best attempts at connecting with God was through religion, the man Jesus connected with people through close, personal relationships.

So, if the commercialism and the cloying sweetness and sentimentality of the celebration of Christmas gets you hot under the collar, consider that – at least for some of God’s followers – they are celebrating the fact that God could finally come and do His own public relations.

And that’s worth celebrating at Christmas, don’t you think? So may your Christmas be about establishing, maintaining or mending relationships with God and people in your life. Merry Christmas to one and all! See you in 2019.