Sunday, December 14, 2008

Merry Christmas to all

It's the third Sunday in Advent 2009 and I have chosen this day to begin my adventures in blogging. To those who may read this, I wish you a very merry Christmas!

Below is my Bright Side Newspaper column for December 2009.

To hear some of the discussions on how we should limit the exposure of Christmas in our modern American world, one could almost think that the holiday is one that we invented and can now totally shape or ignore as we choose. Schools declare the official time as a winter holiday, yet build the calendar around December 25 as the focus of the holiday.

Yet, no matter how some try to limit the holiday, Christmas is one that is not just an American invention, but a world-wide celebration. One estimate is that Christmas is honored by some 400 million belivers world-wide. The traditions are deep, having developed over centuries, transformed or refined, but always centered on the birth of Christ.

Before the holy birth, ancient civilizations celebrated the winter solstice. December 25, the date the ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice, may not be the actual date of the birth of Christ, but it has evolved to a universal day of celebration. Our entire calendar of BC and anno Domini is based on the birth of Christ.

In our 21st century world, where news is constant around the clock it’s hard to imagine that the news of the birth of Christ could spread from a stable in Bethlehem to Shepherds, to wise-men, to the king in a short time. From Angels to Shepherds to ordinary people, the word has continued to spread throughout all the land, generation to generation, nation to nation.

There was no “good news” newspaper like The Bright Side back in the early days. Word was spread one on one, yet here we are, more than 2,000 years later, with the story of the Christ child still powerfully with us. There was an early version of news back in Jesus’ day, a daily sheet first published in 59 BC in Rome called Acta Diurna, or Daily Events, which Julius Caesar had posted throughout the city. Newspapers depend on literacy, however, and in civilizations where many could not read, early newspapers had limited readership.

Today, the story would be on Fox News and CNN with helicopters hovering overhead and reporters out interviewing the Shepherds. The interview might go something like this: REPORTER: “So, here in this field full of sheep, you claim to have seen Angels. Tell me Shepherd boy, do you have a history of hallucinations or drug use?” SHEPHERD: No, and I wasn’t dreaming. There was one Angel with the message of the baby’s birth and then a whole host of Angels. It was an awesome sight.” REPORTER: “Well, there you have it, a claim of Angels out here in the middle of nowhere. We’ll be checking the satellite images to see if they show any unusual activity, however we think it is a hoax. Just in case, however, we have reporters on their way to find the stable and we’ll bring you updates as we have them. Now back to you in the studio.”

Of course, in our modern world Mary and Joseph would not have had to travel to Bethlehem to pay their taxes; they could have stayed home and paid them online. We have computers and instant news coverage and people ready to file lawsuits over nativity scenes and songs of school children. Yet, despite our 21st century restrictions, the ancient story of the Christmas miracle is, for Christians around the world, as fresh and awesome as when it was first revealed to the Shepherds.