Thursday, December 23, 2004
In the coming days the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, an even commonly known as Christmas, despite all efforts to redefine the season. Trees will be lit, presents will be opened, and feasts will be eaten - all to commemorate the birth of a man over 2000 years ago.
His birth, foretold by prophets and heralded by an angelic choir, went largely unnoticed by the world he came to save. It was a very busy season after all. The world around him was in turmoil - each man being recalled to the city of his birth to be taxed and counted according to imperial fiat.
It was in such a world that he was born. His birth was the most important event happening at that time, never the less when that event came knocking on the door of Bethlehem, there was no room in the inn. Our lives are sometimes like that. Too cluttered by the hustle and bustle of the daily grind to take notice of the small events and opportunities that come knocking.
The first 30 years of his life are largely unrecorded. We know that he grew up as the son of a carpenter, "growing in grace and truth by degrees." He grew to be a large man - standing some 6 foot 3 inches judging by the modifications made to the tomb his body inhabited for the three days after his crucifixion.
He took from the weak and the simple of mankind and forever changed the world - even though he never ventured far from the place of his birth. His gathered a physician, a tax collector, some fisherman, and other run of the mill people and turned them into a group of men that would forever leave their mark on the world.
He was the most popular dinner guest in all of Jerusalem. Women flocked to be near him. Children loved him. He ruined every funeral he ever attended. He was a strong and mighty man - if you doubt that go read the story of the Cleansing of the Temple.
His message was simple. "Come follow me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." What did he ask in place of a burnt offering? A broken heart and a contrite spirit. For this he was persecuted, humiliated, and eventually crucified.
He was hung on a cross between two thieves just outside Jerusalem. For those of you unfamiliar with the brutal nature of this form of capital punishment, I will only advise you it takes a very long time to die. It was during this time, undoubtedly the lowest point in Christ's life, that one of the thieves looked upon Jesus and said the following immortal words:
Jesus, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!
It is from this event that I learned a very important message. When the chips were down, his enemies were celebrating victory, and all seemed to be lost, Christ conducted himself in such a manner that a dying man looked into his eyes...and saluted him as a king.
That, dear reader, is why I celebrate Christmas. It truly is a time to celebrate joy, renewal, and peace.
Lastly, while in the midst of your reverie, take time to remember those Peacemakers who are far from home and in harm's way. They do what they do so you may live as you like.
Here endeth the lesson.