OPINION: If the legend of Bethlehem is to be believed then at one time, One who claimed to be the very image of the invisible, high and uplifted, infinite God came and lived among men, writes Lance Fredericks.
THE OTHER day, I went to a supermarket to pick up a few basic necessities. It wasn’t a full-fledged shopping trip; I was just planning to pop in and out without even taking a plastic bag at the checkout.
What I did not realise is that this is the Christmas shopping period, and as I stood there with four measly items in my hands I blushed as I noticed shopping carts all around me overflowing with all types of goodies.
It made me wonder what Xmas shopping was going to be like this year; are people going to pinch their pennies or are we going to splurge and let tomorrow take care of itself?
I stood there looking at the store’s decorations, wondering, is this Xmas going to be about jolly old Santa Claus, shopping, trimmings and tinsel? Is the focus going to be on the braais, the gatherings and the gifts?
Now I say this because already there’s a mild hum on social media with one group of dear souls insisting that the very spelling of ‘Xmas’ is offensive and that ‘Christ’ should be put back into ‘Christmas’.
Then there are those, somewhere else on the spectrum, who argue that Christ was not in Christmas to begin with. These dear hearts would argue that December 25th could not be Christ’s birthday seeing as it would be winter in Bethlehem, and shepherds would not have their sheep out in the fields.
I have also seen arguments that December 25 is the commemoration of the birthday of Nimrod, or Ba’al, the ancient sun-god, and it is therefore, as some call it, ‘baptised paganism’.
I know people say this because at one time I sang this very tune – wish me “Merry Christmas” and I would ‘bliksem’ you with Ba’al, or ‘neuk’ you with Nimrod. However, these days, I prefer to take a different approach, and here’s my reasoning.
December 25 is one of very few times during a busy year that there is a slight opening, a gap, for Christians to speak about the One they revere, respect and admire the most – their Lord Jesus. Yes, if you look past all the tinsel, snow, jingling bells and roasting chestnuts – which are Western, Northern Hemisphere customs anyway – you might see a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem roughly 2000 years ago.
Whether or not the baby – Jesus, or Yeshua, or Joshua, if you prefer – was born in Bethlehem on December 25 may be an insignificant detail which pales in significance to the fact that He was born.
And that should be the point.
You see, these days headlines are harrowing, people are angry and aggressive. Bad people are doing terrible things to the innocent, and innocent people are deciding that it doesn’t pay to be good, so they adopt the attitudes of their abusers and steadily more people will shift to the angry side of the equation.
Face it, no amount of human effort can change this steady shift. Of course you hear of people being cancelled, berated, fined, imprisoned and even executed for a range of transgressions. But no amount of punitive measures, neither juicy bribes or rewards can change hearts.
However, if the legend of Bethlehem is to be believed – and there is enough evidence for those who are interested in a bit of digging – then at one time, One who claimed to be the very image of the invisible, high and uplifted, infinite God came and lived among men.
He did this to, firstly, demonstrate what mankind’s character was supposed to be all about – He was obedient to simple principles that encouraged reverence for God and care for His fellow man, along with displaying concern for the weak.
Thirty-three years later this baby that was born in a small town in Israel did something else, in fact He did a number of even more incredible things, but those are topics for another day.
You see, laws and punishments and election promises and cash injections and treaties will not change this world for the better, since people are damaged, warped, corrupted.
We think we are ‘good’ or ‘nice’ until someone offends us, or pulls into the lane ahead of us without indicating … Then we get to meet our true selves, realising that we have been fooling ourselves about who we thought we were all along.
And that right there is the hope of Christmas time; at one time, into a world that was sliding into darkness, God gave an incredible gift, that if embraced has the ability to change a person’s attitude and make hearts swell with beneficence.
One of my favourite authors put it this way: “In (sending) His Son, (God) has poured out to us all heaven in one gift. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us.
“God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature. This is the pledge that God will fulfil His word. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder.”
So whether or not you’re celebrating Christmas, and whatever your plans for the vacation, look after yourself and take care of your loved-ones. Enjoy the Festive Season and may the coming year be a good one.