Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Thoughts

In this country, where we prepare for the holiday-that-dares-not-speak-its-name, where many with angry hearts have made Canadians afraid to speak the name of their own much-loved celebration and to instead cover it up in euphemisms, where decades of commercialization have obscured the real reason for the season, and where the reason for the celebration has itself been distorted, in this country, it seems Christmas has been lost to the powers of relativism, apathy, and greed. Even the recent trend of giving gifts in the form of made-in-the-name-of donations is a form of greed as it obviates the giver from thinking about the giftee and often it's the giver who hoards the tax receipt to himself. Besides which, charity ought to be a year-round thing, not something consigned to one month of the year.

So what does Christmas make me think of? It seems every year, I learn something new about this story. Hard to believe that, I know, since I've heard it every year for decades, but 'tis true. So here's my take for this year.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Ahura Mazda, the Omniscient,
who through His powerful insight
knows the final outcome, answered:
"Not a single Lord, Ahu, nor an enlightened Guide, (Ratu) [the enlightened guide to Salvation]
who walks hand in hand with Truth
has yet been found to help Gaush Urva [cry of the oppressed, demanding justice].
I have therefore, appointed you, (Zarathushtra)
as her protector and herdsman" (Yasna 29:6)

A voice cries out:
"In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
The the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken." (Isaiah 40:1-5)

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight -- indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire...he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify...and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. (Malachi 3:1-3)

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin....He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:4, 7-8)

The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for y9ou have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus." (Luke 1:30-31)

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.".... they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.... they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house. they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-2, 9-12)
The wise men -- Zoroastrian priests -- gave three gifts of specific meaning to Jesus. The first, gold, is a gift given to kings. It was also practical since soon after the giving, King Herod decreed that all children under two years old would be murdered, and Joseph took his family and fled with them to Egypt. They ended up needing that gold to survive their exile. The second gift, also valuable, signified divinity. And the third, also valuable, is for embalming the dead. In other words, the magi knew just who Jesus was, his character and his needs, present and future, and gave him appropriate gifts. From this story arose the tradition of exchanging gifts at Christmas time. But it seems that this tradition has become distorted. I wonder, do we spend the time and thoughtfulness to give gifts that are unique and specific for the giftees? Do we show the giftees the generosity of our hearts towards them (as opposed to strangers)? Are our gifts as practical and reflective of the person as the magi's gifts to Jesus were? Rare is the person who can give of his life to another, as Jesus did for us, but it isn't as hard to emulate the magi in their generosity to Jesus.

No comments: