Unseen by these travelers was a celestial beacon, brilliant in reason perhaps but maybe dim in sight because only three learned men - Maji, or Wise Men - noticed this great light of the Heavens and journeyed far from their comforts in search of the shadows that might be cast for humanity through the glow of this celestial event. Science today has taught us that the Maji followed a rapidly changing grouping of planets - Jupiter, Mars and Saturn - in the constellation of Pisces, the House of the Hebrews, and not a brilliant comet or exploding star of supernatural making. The motions of the heavenly bodies within this pattern of stars had been foretold by their mentors yet the time at which this event would happen had been unknown to all.
No one else would ever have known about this great celestial sign had it not been for the three Wise Men explaining to King Herod why they had begun their journey across a barren earth in search of a totally unknown discovery, perhaps a ruler of all mankind that the ancient prophecies had said would take place.
The shepherds watching their flocks at night had not seen the star.....there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that they had; if it had been a brilliant and sudden alarming light in an otherwise unchanging heavens, they would have surely taken notice. But they did not. Instead, we are told and angels announced the birth of Jesus to them. The news was of such great importance that they left their flocks and they - like the Maji from great distances - began what was, without any doubt, a laborious and demanding journey for which there was no financial, no social and no political gain for them.
In the chaos of this time, some two thousand years ago, the roads were well traveled and the cities full; the likes of a simple couple - Joseph and Mary - her astride perhaps a donkey due to give birth at any time, and he walking alongside to guide the way, were common as the commoners flooded into the towns and cities across the lands. Dirty, un-bathed and battered from the journey as all the people, these two found no place to stay after their journey, and with her about to give birth were thirsty, hungry and at the limits of their human strength, both physically and mentally. The straws and dust of a simple livestock stable afforded not only refuge, but perhaps a quiet and encompassing arena in which the greatest birth of all times would take place.
After this baby was delivered upon this Earth the Maji had located them......the shepherds, in the company of great kings and a small baby that they had been told would be the King of all men, suddenly stood in a simple barn, the tiny baby restless in a straw-filled manger, and there was no doubt a single person who was not immersed in the magnitude of the moment in which they lived.
There - as nothing more than a tiny baby in swaddling clothes, crying, hungry and confused by all around him - was a little child we have come to know as Christ the King.
Oh ye of little faith.....bear with me on this, this is for you too.
This moment in time was recorded in two books of the Bible and the life of Christ was documented from that time forward. Historical records confirm the concerns and edicts by Herod the King to destroy all young men deemed to be the age of the Christ child based on the stories told by the Maji during their visit. Even other religious scripts each elude to the birth of a great prophet, each of whom are named according to their own religious foundations, but likely referring to the same being.
Imagine living two thousand years ago without the comforts that we appreciate today. Think of the chaos facing each and every citizen as they were forced to their towns of reckoning to pay their taxes or the abuse and inhumanity they faced if they were unable to do so.
We can all accept that this baby was born and his life documented until the time of his ultimate persecution, crucifixion and ultimate death. Through the miracle of modern television, movies and other media we can "see" vivid accounts of the abuse that Christ endured throughout his life, as did many other people of his times. Whether you accept this child born to a virgin mother as the son of God or the King of Kings, his birth and life were revered as something special - out of the ordinary, not fitting into everyday life.
Yet somehow - through some force of the human spirit - the spirit of there being a supreme being persists even until today; to pretend that we know what that spirit in fact IS, simply is ignorance and arrogance on the part of mankind. Today we do not know if we witness miracles or not.....the fantasy of media in our lives has numbed our very compassion and logic to accept that everything, no matter how spectacular, is ordinary and possible through the powers of digital manipulation.
The Christian faith grew rapidly after this quiet night over two thousand years ago, even as the rulers of all lands sought to enslave and destroy all who believed. For those who accepted the child as the Son of God, a celebration of Christ's birth could not have taken place annually on the date of his actual birth. To do so would mean persecution or even death for those who so observed. Rather, Christians moved the celebration of the King of Men to the time of an established ritual - the pagan Saturnalia - which partied away the passing of the winter solstice each year. The celebration of what we today call "Christmas" would surely go unnoticed if held during the rowdy festivities of this raucous event.
Saturnalia in ancient Rome - a time to celebrate the winter solstice, the longest night of the year
Amidst the pagan festivities of drinking, lasciviousness, and immorality, the quiet and respectful sacred birth of Christ would be celebrated for over two thousand years.
But great scholars have all told us - warned us - that society and morality within society breaks down over time and that unbridled freedom of all things paves a pathway to destruction of the moralities that define the civilized world. It has happened before and perhaps it is happening today.
Like the world of Joseph and Mary so long ago, we are today in a world so overpopulated and divisive that we again endure increasing chaos in our everyday lives. We live....but sometimes we have difficulty accepting exactly why we are living.
Let me ask you a simple question: If the events the led the Maji on their way....if the Angels appeared to the shepherds....if we were told that there was going to be a savior born in the City of David (or East Los Angeles) would you in this modern world pay any attention? If you could see a YouTube video of it as it commenced, would you believe? If Mary tweeted you that she had just had a healthy 5-pound 8-ouch baby Savior.....would you re-tweet it to your friends?
Sadly, at this most sacred time of the year - no matter if you are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or whatever faith you may hold - we cannot even take the time to stop and reflect that there is MORE to our lives, our very existences, than the bodies in which we reside. We can take the time, lots of it, to shop and to decorate and to plan parties and dinners.....but can we take the time to actually honor the fact that we are merely human beings who are living in a preciously borrowed planet for a infinitesimally small period of time that we call 'life?'
Biology is not 'life'....it is our chance to perceive and experience the pleasure and gifts that life brings.
The Christmas season is decorated with the very reasons that we have human emotions: it is a time to remember and honor those who we loved but are now gone from Christmas' past; it is a special time to have a warm heart and give of ourselves in ways that make us feel rewarded and good about being alive....it is about gifts, glitter, music, festivities, food, fun and fantasy. Cartoon characters that come to life, spirits bright in our children that make difficult times seem like they have purpose.
We believe that the human being is the greatest achievement of all. Achievement by what....by whom? If you believe that then you must believe in creation of some sort, and to do so requires that you believe in a Creator.
I do....I believe. I do not know, nor will ever pretend to know, what that Creator is. Or why that Creator made me. I do not know if I should call him/her/it 'God', or 'Allah' or 'The Great Spirit."
Does it really matter the label that we place on this creation and the reason that we are here?
So my gift to you for Christmas this year is very simple yet very powerful. It is a statement.....please feel free to make your own, but this one is mine:
1) I believe that I was created to fulfill as rich a life as I possibly can produce for a period of 80 or so years, the more the merrier;
2) I believe that I am here because I was created, and I call that Creator, 'God'.....it does not matter what we call our deity; I will not argue with you if you do not argue with me;
3) I believe that every single one of us - you too - must believe that there is something greater than yourself;
4) I believe that this short biological life that we have been blessed with is given for a reason.....and there are rewards as well as consequences if we do not manage our tiny organism of biology correctly;
5) However it happened.....I believe that a human being was born some 2000 years ago to make sure that we manage our spirit of life correctly
6).....and sadly I believe that we have let both our Creator and event down as civilization again evolves toward chaos.
I believe in Santa Claus as well, but only in my imagination which I can control. The fate of our world may be turning out of control and the future of all of humanity depends on each and every one of us to do one simple thing:
BELIEVE THAT THERE IS SOMETHING GREATER THAN YOURSELF.
Only then will you come to realize why you are here and why you have been given this richest of all gifts: life itself.
Merry Christmas. Please take the time to go outside on a dark night and look skyward at Creation. It is there to tell you the story. Don't take my word for it.....
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