Christmas thoughts: Humble Beginnings, Worldwide Ends

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(c) Can Stock Photo / Anke

Christmastime is a time to consider the birth of Christ. That is “the reason for the season” as the saying goes. Even with the layering of a celebration of the birth of Christ over a Roman holiday celebrating a pagan mystery religion, and even in the busyness of all the commercialism and shopping frenzy, and in spite of the looming red eclipse of Santa, we usually pause to connect the dots to the birth of Jesus.

Whether you wish people a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, Christmas involves some acknowledgment of the birth of a man who was called Jesus who lived and died in the 1st Century in the region of Palestine and modern Israel today. Here, in the confluence of Roman, Greek, Jewish and pagan influences, an obscure carpenter who lived maybe 33 years began a movement in human history that has spanned the globe and, even today, remains a predominant influence.

This movement created perhaps the freest and greatest democracy in human history. It flourishes even in the cold, communist climate of China and in the hotly hostile religious climate of Iran. It has made its way into the far reaches of the earth, down remote jungle streams and over barren desert sands to touch nearly all people groups of the earth.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of this influential, but humble, man are shrouded in mystery and quiet awe, if the circumstances are to be believed. Continue reading “Christmas thoughts: Humble Beginnings, Worldwide Ends”

The Thoughts of Many Hearts Revealed

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Young Jesus presented to Simeon at the Temple

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“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.'” (Luke 2:34-35)

People tend to focus on the “Christmas story”, but this verse that follows the account of the birth of Jesus is significant, if not subtle, in its ramifications.

Simeon was a temple priest who entertained the rituals performed by Mary after Jesus was born. Luke says that it was revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that Simeon would not die before he had seen the Messiah.

Devout Jews of the time were expecting a Messiah (“Christ” in Greek). Keep in mind that over 300 years had passed since the last of the Old Testament prophets who foretold the Messiah. Simeon knew this baby was the One because the Holy Spirit had spoken to him!

Following an article I read recently, the author had a back and forth discussion with a reader about whether Jesus actually existed. The skeptic questioned the reliability of the Bible and did not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was an historical figure. Among other things, he questioned the lack of reference in First Century historical accounts of Jesus and the miracles that the Bible describes. The reader argued: if so many miraculous things really happened, wouldn’t everyone have heard about them and made mention of them in historical accounts?

Never mind that social media was late to arrive in First Century Galilee and CNN had not yet been picked up in Jerusalem at that time. I wonder: would you believe accounts of miracles if they were reported in India? Mexico? Montana? Would you have even give it a second thought if some fishermen, homeless persons or prostitutes claimed to be healed?

Of course, this question begs another question: Isn’t the Bible a historical account? The “books” of the New Testament are written like historical accounts, especially the Gospels and the Book of Acts, but what about the letters?

The Christ child, Simeon is recorded as saying to Mary, was “destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel”, and that certainly is what happened. Jesus, who only lived a short 30 some years, caused quite a stir, and the stir even continues today, almost two millennia later.

Many continue to speak against Jesus today, just as Simeon said they would, which is an odd thing if Jesus was never an historical figure. The thoughts of many hearts are revealed if this Jesus really was God who came in the flesh to walk among us. He is the continental divide between those who are open to God and those who deny him.

Continue reading “The Thoughts of Many Hearts Revealed”