Christmas in Context

Posted by Nick Whitehead on Wednesday, 4th December 2013

About 1,500 years BC, two separate Middle Eastern tribes began to wonder if/recognize that the world in which they lived had a creator God.  They told stories to one another about how they thought this God operated, what his character was like, and what sort of relationship he wanted with his ‘creation’ and particularly human beings.  Over the centuries these tribes developed into more settled communities, became known as the Israelites, and built shrines and the Temple in Jerusalem as a focus for their worship.  The history of this developing relationship between God and humanity is recorded in the Old Testament, which starts with the creation stories those two tribes recorded  (you will find them in Genesis chapters 1 & 2).

Time passed.

In Bethlehem a Jewish child was born, whose parent’s names we (somewhat surprisingly) know:  Mary and Joseph.  Our calendar is linked to his birth date though, in fact, he was probably born about 4 BC due to numbering errors over the years.  As a lot of us (but by no means all) know he lived in the Holy Land for about 33 years before he was crucified.  Somewhat surprisingly his followers grew in strength, despite persecution, and four of them (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) wrote accounts of his life, believing him to have been resurrected.  Luke also wrote a history of the early church that started to worship him as if he were God.   One follower called Paul encouraged and challenged these small church communities in places like Corinth and Galatia through visits and letters to them.  All these writings were eventually gathered into a single volume, the New Testament.

Christians bind these two testaments together and call them the Bible.  The Old Testament holds great truths but it is qualified by the second.  Perhaps in the same way that meeting a pen friend or someone you first contacted through Facebook, brings new insights into their character that were previously cloaked.  When Jesus was born humanity met God face to face, and saw (amongst other things) that his only solution for our anger, greed, fear and pride, was love on a cross.

Time passed

God’s purposes continue to be carried forward by his Spirit of love in the hearts of so many people who pray and act well.  Not all attend church, though that can help understanding and commitment.  Many are of other faiths (though I believe God is seen most accurately as love on a cross).  Together we seek to respond well to the birth of a single human being who also turned out to be God.

May He be born afresh in your life this Christmas.

A Joyful Christmas to you all.