I am astonished at people, and not just the few genuine atheists, or the masses that have chosen this path out of convenience. Many of us seem to forget the awesomeness of the story, and then I am thinking of the Biblical meaning of the word. Awesome used to be a strong reaction to something so amazing that anyone witnessing it found it hard to describe the experience in words. The closest a dictionary can get is defining it as a strong feeling of fear, wonder and inspiration. The Christmas story is the most awesome ever written and it isn’t over yet.
The Christmas story is a fascinating story about journeys. Take the three wise men for example. There are many legends about them, but the point isn’t really where they came from, how many they were, or when they came to see Jesus. The point is that they had to travel a long distance, and they didn’t let anyone or anything stop them. It probably wasn’t an easy journey, but they were determined to find what they came there for, and they did.
Mary and Joseph had to travel too. They went from Nazareth to Betlehem, and then they had to go to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. I don’t think we reflect enough on the difficulties these parents faced. Jesus probably heard a lot of comments as well. That’s how people are today, and human behaviour hasn’t changed that much.
It is true, as some have pointed out, that Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which was legally binding in the Jewish culture. It may not have been that shocking with a pregnancy in between the betrothal and the wedding, if Joseph was the father. He wasn’t. People would have seen Mary as just another pregnant teenager, and the punishment would have been stoning. Joseph’s initial reaction was divorce, so they both had a long journey ahead of them. The big story is of course that God invited all people to make the journey, to be united as his family.
It’s silly, like some people do, to argue whether or not Jesus was poor. That’s irrelevant, but there are indications suggesting that he was born into a family that did quite well. It may not have been very rich, but Jesus had a profession that would have been a strong currency at the time. There probably wasn’t a place where he couldn’t find employment. According to the genealogy presented in the gospels Jesus was related to Noah, Abraham and David, three men that God made a pact with. That doesn’t look like low status to me.
I think Jesus had different experiences because he was intended to represent everybody, It is true that his beginning was humble. It doesn’t matter whether it was a real stable or a part of a house where the animals stayed. The point is that Jesus was unusual no matter what you believe or don’t believe in. He surrounded himself with powerful friends, as well as enemies, but he was never afraid of controversy. He protected children, defended women others despised, and in the end he was betrayed by his most trusted friends. Many say that life comes without an instruction manual, but the ideals Jesus expressed isn’t a bad recipe in today’s chaotic world. Jesus didn’t just inspire the Jews and gentiles, because most of what we see as our best humanist Western ideas don’t differ much from the life and teaching of Jesus.
It is often said that Christmas is about hope, and this is where the courageous people in the story can inspire us. Hope is not necessarily something we have to wait for. It could very well be a decision we make, and hope doesn’t have to feel good at all. That comes later when you see the consequences of you decisions.
One of my favourite bloggers, Extra Dry Martini, wrote a very sobering post the day before Christmas (we celebrate on the 24th). I like the phrase I’m on the other side of darkness now from her post Instructions. I know what she’s writing about. I have written a lot about autism spectrum disorder, nonverbal learning disorder, ADHD, and their comorbid conditions depression and anxiety. That may seem like a sad topic, but I think many people see the wider story. It’s a journey and there is always a path leading back from the outland. There is hope along the way, and that isn’t a bad reminder to get on the darkest time of the year.