Hope this letter finds you in perfect peace, by the enduring grace of the Only True God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s that time of the year again Theo, when all over the world, people calling themselves “christians”, join hands with Roman Catholics and the rest of the non-christian world, to indulge in the most expensive, hectic, flamboyant “christian” celebration of the year.
But of late, I find myself increasingly miserable and irritated during the inescapable year-ends, what with all the wasteful, senseless, misplaced fuss encroaching into my reclusive, boring life.
But of late, I find myself increasingly miserable and irritated during the inescapable year-ends, what with all the wasteful, senseless, misplaced fuss encroaching into my reclusive, boring life.
Watching pint-sized shepherds in Nike sports shoes herding cardboard sheep along the corridors of my church, brought to mind one of Luke’s amazing accounts – the story of the amazed shepherds. Dr. Luke sure was one heck of a reporter, no? So many of the things he has compiled in his account of the Good News, have the uncanny ability to bring forth amazing truths which might have otherwise been lost in the course of history. But wait till you hear of all the ridiculous year-end hoop-la nowadays. You will be as shocked as I am, to see what “christianity” looks like in the 21st century world.
Christianity today begins with the birth of Jesus Christ. This begs the question, “What WAS the date of Jesus’ birth?” Was it even in December at all, as these “christians” say? Luke wrote about shepherds camping out in the fields. Now Theo, you know very well, no sane shepherd would be grazing sheep in the fields of Israel in December because that’s the local winter season, right? Surely his dear mother, who bared her soul to Luke, would not have missed out this universal detail? What mother you know will not have the minutest details of her first-born’s birthday etched in her mind forever? Especially one who was conceived and birthed in such extraordinary circumstances? Yet these “christians” around the globe today unashamedly celebrate the birth of GOD’s Messiah on December 25th which is like, whoa, MID-WINTER in Israel! But I digress….)
Ok, so he was probably born sometime in spring/summer - between April and September - when the grass is still green. Out in the countryside, a bunch of tired shepherds huddle together around a campfire, relaxing with a cuppa and maybe some light music on the guitar. And within eyeshot are the sheep chewing cud or whatever it is that they chew when they are bored with listening to the yapping of the equally bored shepherds (just like some folks in the back pews during the Sunday sermon - when they are not busy sms-ing, or getting carried away with their Game-boys etc. I tell you Theo, it’s really annoying to have to scrape gum off your shoe when you exit the church. But again I digress….).
Everyone was settling down to another uneventful shepherds’ night out. Suddenly, a surreal figure appears in front of them, bathed in dazzling lights. Being Jews, the shepherds instantly realize that they were face to face with an angel sent by the Almighty GOD. Usually when angels suddenly appear, ’tis not really the season to be jolly is it, Theo? And so, like all good Jews, they immediately become panic-stricken, and they…well….panic. (Funny, but some of the angels hanging around my church in December do nothing of the sort to me. In fact, Theo, at a recent christmas do in my church, I saw a really skinny one in a reeeeally short skirt - would have looked really cute under my realistic-looking fibre-optic christmas tree. But I digress yet again…..)
Back in the field, the LORD’s angel apologizes for his terrifying appearance and assures them that he came only to deliver good news – good news about the birth of their Saviour, who is actually the long-promised, long-awaited Messiah (the Only True GOD’s Anointed One). This must be BIG news, for a large crowd of angels gather around and accord praise and glory to the Most High GOD as HE reigns over all, eternally on HIS heavenly throne. And they really wish that folks on earth would have the bloody goodwill to be at peace with all men. (Whaaaaat? Do I sense a lack of enthusiasm here? No songs about “boughs of holly…three kings…aachariyamaam natchatthram…O Christmas tree…snow…..new-born king…” and such? Ooops! Here I go digressing again….)
The angel then hands a shepherd a GPS locator to help them find the baby. (I must say Theo, that’s a really neat gizmo to help track down lost relatives, anywhere, anytime – even if they are not relatives!) Seeing the shepherd’s jaw drop even lower, the angel looks at his watch. “Oops, two thousand years too early,” he mutters to himself. He puts away the GPS, points towards Bethlehem City and gives simple instructions – look for a newborn baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger. Hmmm, shouldn’t be too hard to find – like how many newborn babies are normally discovered in mangers in Bethlehem, Theo? (Today, however it’s quite common to find them in plastic bags, drains and rubbish dumps.)
Amazed at how the night turned out, the shepherds take a moment to stabilize their knocking knees and rush off in search of stables in Bethlehem, checking out the mangers inside. Finally they find it. There it was, Theo – a tiny pink baby, all wrapped up like any ordinary Jewish baby, except lying in a manger – EXACTLY as the angel of the LORD had said!
Now cometh the confusing part. I ask you Theo, did the shepherds celebrate? Did Joseph and Mary light up the Christmas tree, pass the pudding and exchange gifts with the shepherds? Did the innkeeper burst out in song? Was there ever a celebration of ANY sort over the birth of this baby? No. But why not, Theo? Well, just look at it from Mr & Mrs Joseph’s perspective:. I’m picturing this, Theo, a few months before it all began:
I see Mary smiling to herself, humming a happy tune, talking to the mirror and dreaming about being the most stunning bride Nazareth had ever seen. But suddenly she is brought to earth with a perplexing message from an angel. She was pregnant! Not at all the kind of message a would-be bride would ever want to hear, even from an angel. She was to give birth to GOD’s Son. She rushes off to see her cousin Elizabeth, who tries to comfort her by saying that she too is miraculously pregnant. But Mary is pregnant BEFORE her wedding! (It was a big deal to decent girls in those days). I see her agonizing each day over how she was going to break this news to her darling Joseph. Soon her bulging tummy gradually shows in spite of the loose robes…. Poor girl! Must have given her sleepless nights, what with all that inescapable Jewish tongue-wagging going in Nazareth.
Then I see Joseph, whistling a happy tune as he worked busily in his woodshop, preparing for his soon-to-be big day. I see the town-folks shaking their heads and going “tut-tut” as they pass his window. He wonders why. Then I see his jaw drop. His world comes crashing down when he finally overhears that his dear fiancée is …..well…..in the family way, even before the wedding. But he had vowed to her to wait until the wedding! (It was a big deal to decent guys in those days). Hugely embarrassed, he hurriedly closes his shop for a few days. I see him tossing and turning in bed. How to call off the wedding without either of them being exposed to public contempt or even stoning? And then an angel tells him that the child was holy and to go ahead with the wedding. But she is pregnant BEFORE the wedding! How?
Poor Joseph and Mary! All their meticulous wedding plans are now in shambles. They fire their wedding planner and settle for a low-profile wedding – a VERY low-profile wedding. When it was finally over, they were looking forward to an equally quiet private delivery too, to avoid the sharp tongues of the Nazareth folks (apparently nothing good comes out of Nazareth). But suddenly the TV announces a compulsory registration exercise. Talk about rotten timing! That’s a 4 day journey, IF they could get a seat in a caravan! And this close to her due date!
Anyway, after a 120-kilometer bouncy ride, they arrive in Bethlehem. Weary and worried, Joseph helps his heavily-pregnant wife along the crowded streets, desperately trying to book a room for the night. (I have tried booking a room in Penang on christmas night, Theo; I have an idea of what these two would have gone through!). As they jostle their way through the busy streets of downtown Bethlehem, he bumps into an old buddy from Nazareth.
“Shalom, Josey, old chap! Made it to Bethlehem in one piece? Mary! You never invited me to the wedding? And whoa, looks like there’s going to be the patter of tiny feet very soon! Ho, ho, ho, that was fast! You old devil Joseph ben Jacob, what have you been up to? (wink wink!)”
“Well….er....I didn’t …. I mean, she is…err… you know…. a dream…you see, the angel…..” Joseph stutters.
“Yeah, yeah, I know she was your dream girl and I’m sure she must be quite an angel, no doubt (wink, wink!). Hubba hubba, way to go, man! Nazareth rules! Shalom and lechaim!”
As the friend walks past them laughing and poking him in the ribs, Mary pulls her scarf across her face, sobbing. Joseph’s heart hits rock bottom. No way anyone in Nazareth or Bethlehem is EVER going to believe their private accounts, of angelic visitations. Suddenly Mary grips Joseph’s arm – she is in pain!
“Oh no! Oh God, not yet please…we can’t get a room anywhere!” Joseph gasps. He pleads with the owner of a rest-house for just a corner somewhere. The man stares at Mary holding her tummy and leaning against the wall. Shaking his head, he points to the stable. Joseph desperately grabs the offer so that Mary could at least rest a little while he asks around for a midwife or something. But before he could move, Mary grabs at his sleeve and screams, “Joseph, the baby……!” At THAT time? In THAT place? Sheesh! Without medical insurance, that’s any parent’s worst nightmare! There was absolutely no-one that they could turn to but each other. What could Joseph do? Armed with nothing more than his carpentry skills, he gets down to doing his best.
Finally the baby is delivered. Joseph cleans up and looks around for a place to lay the baby. Well, what could you find in a stable, Theo? A hand-carved rosewood baby cot with double-layered flannelling and blue teddy bear motifs? No such luck. He looks at Mary, sleeping from exhaustion and then, holding back his tears, he shoo-s the big cow away and puts the baby in the manger. He is looking around for something more befitting a descendent of King David, when some excited fellers barge into the stable. They take one look at the manger and yell excitedly, “We found him! This is the baby!” They all start babbling animatedly about angels, noels, saviours and mangers. Joseph & Mary’s hearts jump! At last, someone else also has had angelic visitations as divine confirmation! But wait, these were just ordinary country folk. And shepherds at that. Not scripture-quoting theologians like Pharisees (not that scripture-quoting theologians get everything right every time; take their laughable attempts at scripturally quoting a “triune” one-God ….. but I don’t want to digress again….). Who would ever believe shepherds and their typically exaggerated campfire tales of things that go bump in the night? Immediately Mary’s tired shoulders droop as she realizes she will just have to keep everything to herself .
O Theo, there OUGHT to have been rejoicing at the birth of a savior. After all, Abraham must have been overcome with jubilation when Isaac was born. Hannah must have been absolutely lost in joy at the birth of Samuel. All Israel must have held lengthy holidays to celebrate the birth of Prince Solomon. Rev. Zacharias went ape when his son John was born. But the birth of Jesus? Why, news of the birth of the Son of the Only True God should have caused the entire Jewish populace to burst forth in uncontrollable exuberance, from Bethlehem to the ends of Judea and Samaria, and to hell with the Romans and old King Herod! I mean, this is a tribe that went nuts over recovering an old box containing old sticks and old stones - to the extent that their king danced in the street till his clothes gave way! But did Luke record any festivity over the birth of the long-awaited Messiah? None, Theo. There in that dirty, smelly stable in Bethlehem there was just Joseph, Mary, a baby and a straw-filled manger. No christmas tree, no music, no singing, no dancing, no “ho, ho ho’s”, no tinsel, no silver bells, no snow, no reindeer, no merry gentlemen, no santa, no mistletoe, no twinkling lights, no gifts, no gift-bearing kings, no spanking new clothes, no turkey, no pudding, no celebration. NOTHING! Nahi. Nacht. Zilch. Period.
What about the heavens? Any celebration there you think, Theo? Did Luke miss out on the celestial partying on the night when the glorious Son of GOD stepped down on planet earth? Did the Messiah – GOD’s Anointed One – who existed with HIM before time began – ride down from the clouds with his banner held high? Did Christ kick Herod out of the throne with great fanfare, to take over as the Anointed King of the Jews forever and ever? Was he driven around in Bethlehem with a busload of singers in red hats? No Theo. Instead, there must have been shocked silence in heaven. The Most High GOD had reduced His beloved Son, His glorious and highly exalted Christ, into mere human DNA and implanted it in a young unmarried girl’s womb where it developed just like all other creatures that GOD formed from the earth. After months of being carried around inside an earthling’s distended belly, it is ejected and deposited in a smelly stable in downtown Bethlehem as a few kilograms of mammalian tissue, for all practical purposes a Son of Man. It bore NO RESEMBLANCE WHATSOEVER to the former magnificent glory, power, honour and authority of GOD’s Messiah. It lies there, a mere cry-baby, absolutely helpless in the bosom of an exhausted, inexperienced mother and watched over by a bewildered, inexperienced father. And the only witnesses are a bunch of amazed shepherds! Tell me Theo, when the Commander of a 72,000-strong angelic army, lies on his back, crying in hunger as he suckles the breast of an earthly creature that is 5 times his height, and 10 times his weight, what’s there to celebrate? When he who was empowered by his Father, the Most High GOD, to rule over the suns and the stars, now lies in an animal feedbox, unable to clean himself when he goes to the toilet, tell me, O Theo what is there for heaven to celebrate?
Like me, you must also have read and re-read Luke’s accounts of the activities of Jesus, Paul and the 11 Apostles. Tell me Theo, did the doctor ever mention any of them celebrating their Master’s birth on December 25th? Or on any other date for that matter? Or maybe a passing mention of a special family feast in Mr & Mrs Joseph’s home to commemorate the birth of their first-born, during any one of the 30 years that Jesus lived with his parents in Nazareth? During his entire 3-year ministry, did Jesus ever ask his followers to celebrate or even remember his birthday? (He did ask them to remember his death, though!) How about the Church that Jesus said he would build – the one that the gates of hell will not prevail against (unlike the multi-million dollar properties that “christians” feverishly strive to build, extend, renovate and show-off in the 21st century)? Any record of a “christmas” celebration in the Apostolic churches? No? You know why, Theo? Not because Luke was not invited for the party. It was because they saw NO CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION when the Son of GOD is lying as a helpless baby, in a stable. And same goes for all who truly know the Only True GOD and the Christ whom He sent.
You see Theo, the Christ who was eternally clothed in the glorious form of God, was stripped COMPLETELY of all his divine glory and made to take on the form of ordinary humans – an earthly species clothed in sin, condemned to death, judgment and eternal damnation. This reverse transformation (like a beautiful butterfly that metamorphoses into a grubby caterpillar) is a demotion of such infinite proportions as to cause the gross-est embarrassment in the kingdom of heaven. An embarrassment of such proportions that GOD Himself was speechless at the sight. His silence was not broken even when Jesus was brought to the temple eight days later as required by GOD’s law; nor at any time as he grew up with his earthly parents. GOD’s ominous silence that engulfed the heavens, was only broken 30 years later, when Jesus, as a grown man, consciously chose to walk in his GOD-ordained path of righteousness. Drenched in the Jordan river at the hands of his cousin John the Baptist (not to be confused with the so-called Baptists today), the familiar voice of His Father, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased,” must have been of immeasurable assurance to Jesus after the long silence.
O Theo, seeing the Son of God humiliated and tarred-and-feathered in this fashion in that dirty manger, is in no way a cause for celebration - not for rational people - no matter what today’s “churches” and “pastors” spin from their lofty self-ordained pulpits. Jesus’ utter humiliation continued for 33 long years. He moved about on the tiny plot of earth called Israel not as a king, but as an ordinary Jew, paying taxes like everybody else, to a pagan imperialist hegemony. He was exposed to all the sorrows of the human kind – pain, deprivation, opposition, harassment, hunger, sadness, treachery, scorn, torture and abandonment. All finally culminating in a horrendous death on a hot Thursday afternoon. (Theo, you guys were celebrating your most significant festival – the Passover - totally oblivious to the fact that your centuries-old tradition was being acted out in real life, just outside Jerusalem. GOD’s very own sacrificial Lamb, staked out naked, bleeding and dying for the redemption of ordinary folks like you and me.)
So do you know how this 25th December christmas festival came about? This appeared about 400 years after Jesus. The Apostolic church had morphed into the Roman Catholic Church in middle-eastern Europe. In keeping with their well-documented modus operandi, the Roman Catholic Church decreed December 25th as the birthday of Jesus. This was actually the birthday of Mithra, a local variety of the popular pagan sun-gods of the region, in conjunction the winter solstice, (that’s the day with the shortest daylight in those parts of the world) hence the snow themes. The birthday of the sun-god, re-christened as the birthday of the Son of God, in order to accommodate the wishes of the vast number pagans….er…. “converts” in the church. Neat, huh? This was wonderful news to the “converts”, since now, as “christians”, they could continue with their pagan festivities along with their unconverted pagan friends. Then, against the objections of Bible-believing Christians (mocked as Puritans), America – the land of the enterprising - declared christmas as a “christian” holiday in the 19th century. ALL the traditions of christmas - from the snow to the tree to the gifts to the carols (not to mention the feasting, dancing and general revelry) – are, without exception, a continuation of those Mithra-glorifying, winter solstice rituals of the 4th century sun-worshippers. Just a clutch of pagan traditions in honor of a pagan god. And it’s all SO much fun (and good for business too) that the “church” today is in no hurry to give it up, nor even dare teach the truth, lest “christians” are left bereft of a festival to boast to their pagan friends. Moses’ exhortation to the Israelites comes to mind:
“Do not do the things of the land of Egypt, where you once dwelt: and don’t do the things of the land of Canaan, where I am taking you.” - GOD, Leviticus 18:3
Many christians today feel there’s nothing really wrong in celebrating christmas. They look at it as a time of family joy and social goodwill. Well, Theo, you remember what Luke wrote about this?
“When you throw a dinner or a supper, do not invite your friends, nor your family; neither your relatives, nor your rich neighbours………….but call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind." - Jesus, Luke 14:12-13 . So much for being sociable.
As for me Theo (and I don’t think I am alone in this), I will not be “celebrating” anything this December 25th - a day devoted to pseudo-christian celebration of a Vatican-christened pagan festival. My heart goes out to those who know not that they are actually indulging in:
-an irreverent mockery of Christ’s heart-breaking journey that began at the throne of GOD, led through the door of a stable and ended in a borrowed tomb.
-a mindless merry-making over the total humiliation of the Christ of GOD – from divine Lord to humble servant.
-a patently false glorification of the humble incarnation that Jesus, the Son of the Only True God, submitted to, at infinite cost to his divine dignity.
-an arrogant display of disdain for the meticulously-preserved memoirs of Luke and others, in preference for utter lies and irrelevant religio-commercial humbug.
-a season of psychotic silliness, driven by fleshly, materialistic indulgence in the name of the Son of GOD.
So excuse me Theo, while I go puke at the very thought of frolic and fun disguised as “christmas” on this fictitious December 25th fiesta.
O Theo, I do not wish to end this letter on such a sour note. Remember how Luke describes the resurrected Jesus? Now, THAT’s who I am eagerly waiting for with bated breath - his TRIUMPHANT return, in full celestial glory, grandeur and power of One anointed to be the King of kings forever and ever, regardless of the scars in his hands! When I see him thus, aha, THEN watch me celebrate! BOY oh boy! I will hug him and kiss him. I will shout out loud, “THIS is my Lord and Saviour!” till I lose my earthly voice. I will dance in the street at the glory of GOD’s Messiah - a sight alien to human eyes! My earthly clothes may fall off, but who cares, Theo, when I am bathed in the shadow of his cosmic glory that’s a million times brighter than our dying sun? O Theo, what a DAY that will be to remember and celebrate for the rest of eternity!
I end this letter with thoughts of what will pass through your soul this December, Theo. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ abide in you.
A fellow prisoner of Jesus Christ.
“God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” - Jesus (John 3:16).
This saying alone is sufficient reason for all the “whoevers” who believe, to celebrate. In fact, this celebration can be heard resonating throughout the writings of the New Testament. But strangely, there is no Scriptural reference of the occasion of his BIRTH in the stable being CELEBRATED by Christ, his family, his Apostles or the “whoevers” in the early church. During those exciting years, the traditions associated with the celebration of christmas, never existed in the world on any date, except among the pagans OUTSIDE the church. This conspicuous absence of the celebration of Jesus’ birth in the early church begs the question, how did christmas suddenly become a "christian" thing? Here's a clue:
"....after I am gone, terrible wolves will enter among you, not sparing the flock. Some among you will also arise, speaking erroneous things, to draw away disciples after them." - Paul (Acts 20:29-30).
With the passing of the Apostles, these “terrible wolves” gradually outnumbered and out-maneuvered the “whoevers” in the church. They assimilated the traditions of the pagans, in order to keep the pagans “in the church”. Today, it is a monumental task to unweave the Truth taught by Christ from the “erroneous things” imported by the wolves, despite the valiant reformation attempted by Martin Luther 500 years ago.
The truth of the matter is - the story of Jesus Christ does NOT begin at Bethlehem - it begins long BEFORE Genesis. And it ain't finished yet - not till AFTER the fulfillment of Revelation. It is hoped that one re-reads, nay, IMMERSES oneself into the Gospel of Jesus Christ - this time, in the footsteps of the eternal, glorious Christ, the One
- who existed with God before anything else existed,
- who for 33 earth-years, submitted himself to the utter humiliation of being made like one of us fallen creatures,
- who now waits by his Holy Father’s side, glorified
- and who is geared up to return soon as the eternal glorious Lord of all creation, to the glory of his Father – the Only True God.
After that, if one is still convinced that christmas is in no way an aberration................