Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Hangover

There is quite a letdown after Christmas, isn't there?

The adrenaline of the holiday rush has worn off.

Family and friends go their separate ways.

The radio stations stop playing joyous Christmas music.

The sparkling and twinkling decorations start to come down.

The cleaning is endless.

It's easy to get caught up in the Christmas hangover ... I know I do.

But ironically, the days after the first Christmas were filled with joy, hope and wonder.  After all, it was from that day on that our Salvation became real for us.  

Said another way, the birth of Christ was just the beginning of our eternal life, not the end of a commercial holiday season!

So yes, I still get caught up in the Christmas hangover.  But now I use it as a barometer to measure how far off my perspective is.

The more "hungover" I am, the farther off base I am from what the Season really means.

Here's to a year filled with love, peace and Christ.  May this one be your most Holy yet.

God Bless you.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What Was it Really Like?

I spent a lot of time this week wondering what that first Nativity scene was really like.
And after a lot of research, here are some interesting perspectives on that miraculous day.

1)  The birth of Christ probably did not happen in December.   

Luke's account alone helps us figure that out.  He writes about the angel appearing to shepherds "keeping watch over their flocks at night".  History tells us that December nights were pretty cold, and shepherds did not keep watch at night much past September.  

Scholars also think it would have been odd for the Romans to require travel for census during the winter months.  They most likely would have done it before the winter, but after the fall harvest.  That would narrow the timing down to late September or early October.

2)  We don't know when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem.  

Luke simply tells us that "while they were [in Bethlehem] the time came for the baby to be born.  So the scene in the movie The Nativity Story, where Mary is in labor upon entering Bethlehem may or may not be true.   

3)  It's quite possible Joseph stayed with relatives in Bethlehem, and did not go looking for space in an inn.

The word that Luke uses, kataluma, was originally translated to mean "inn".  But many scholars have since indicated the word means "a place where a traveler would sleep or stay".  Back in those days, that usually meant an extra space or room in a house.  

Perhaps because of the census, the usual guest rooms/spots in Joseph's relative's house were taken or being used by elders.  Or perhaps Joseph and Mary wanted some privacy and opted for more a private, albeit, unusual place.

4)  Our Savior was born in a manger, but probably not in the stereotypical wood structure.  And maybe not even in the storied cave-like structure.

Luke tells us Jesus was born in a manger.  And pretty much everyone agrees this meant a feeding trough of some kind.  (Although there are some that believe this type of structure was made of stone versus wood back in those days.)  

It is important to note that many homes in Bethlehem in those days were split into two floors.  The family lived on the upper floor, and the animals were relegated to the lower floor.  Not only did that keep the animals protected, but in the colder months, the heat they generated would keep the family above warm.   

It is in that lower area that the manger would have been located.  Which means it's possible our Lord was born in a house.  

That being said, scholars do think that some "lower levels" were actually built into caves in that area, so it is possible the manger was located in a cave-like structure.

5)  Shepherds were pretty low on the social totem-pole, but were the first to visit and spread the word of our Savior's birth.

I don't know about you, but I had this romanticized image of shepherds based on nativity statues.  Young, clean cut men with a snow white sheep hung tenderly around their neck and a perfectly carved staff in hand.  

Not so.

Shepherds in those days were not trusted.  They were unclean (spiritually and physically).  They smelled.  They were poor.  They were low class.

And yet, these are the people that God chose to be the unlikely first visitors.  Just as He chose a poor child to bring us salvation, He chose the lowest of society to be the first messengers.

6)  The magi (however many there were) did not arrive the night of Jesus' birth.

First things first, nowhere in the bible does it mention how many magi there were.  Because Matthew mentions the three gifts, common storytelling mirrors that with three wise men.  But we don't know that for sure.

Second, most experts believe that the magi did not arrive until after Jesus was presented in the temple.  There are clues in scripture that could support that conclusion, including Herod calling Jesus a child (not baby) after speaking to the magi, Herod killing children up to 2 years old instead of newborns, and the fact that Matthew tells us they visited Jesus in a house, versus the manger.  

Does any of this change the importance of Christmas?  

Of course not.  

But it is fun to wonder what that magical day was really like...

God Bless you as we enter this final week of Advent. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Gift

I wonder if God holds each new day in His loving, caring hands...
Caressing it as only a Creator could...
Staring adoringly at it as only a loving Father could...
Excited as only the ultimate Giver could be.

I wonder if His Heart is overflowing with love as He prepares it for us...

If His mind is full of great anticipation as He sends such a beautiful gift to us each morning.

Does He wonder what beautiful things we will do with it?
What glorious things we will say about it?
How many times we will thank Him for it?

I wonder if we break His heart when we toss it aside.

If we make Him sad as we
Fill it with trivial things...
Miss the beauty in it ...
Forget to thank Him...
and take it for granted yet again.

(This post was inspired by Victor's at the Community of Catholic Bloggers.)

God Bless.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Let's Jump Back 2000+ Years ...

You've been told that in just 21 days, the the Lord is coming in human form, to dwell among us.

How would you prepare?

How would you find Him?

What would you wear?  Your best outfit to show respect?  Or your most mundane one to show Him that material things don't matter?

What would you bring?  Would a gift fit for a baby be insulting to one that is also God?

What would you do when you got there?  Would you cry?  Dance? Would you be speechless?  Would you ramble on, wondering if a baby that is also a Deity could understand you?

How long would you stay?  Just a few minutes out of respect?  Or as long as you possibly could, since anywhere else you could go would pale in comparison?

Needless to say, we would all probably think long and hard about how we would get ready for such a day.

Now imagine you were about to become His Earthly parent ...

How in the world do you even begin to prepare for that?

This Advent season, as we prepare for the coming of our Savior, let us not forget the commitment Mary and Joseph made when they said "yes" to God.  And I pray the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to do the same.  

God Bless.