Keep The Christ In Christmas- What It Really Means

With the lights, trees and presents, as well as the myriad of familial commitments, it is easy to lose track of what is really important this Christmas season: the birth of Jesus. The reason is that the miracle of the virgin birth of God, coming to save humanity gives deeper meaning to the traditions, and is at risk of being trivialized by the secular celebrations.

The point here is not to condemn secular celebrations of Christmas or those who do not celebrate Christmas at all, but to remind people why this is so important. So do not take this as derogatory to non-believers, but remember the Truth and importance of what the Nativity means and why this meaning must be preserved. After all, that’s what Christmas is really all about.

The Basics

As most people know, the birth of Jesus came about when an angel asked Mary if she would have the child of God. When she accepted this task, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and without physical intercourse. Therefore, Jesus was the son of God, and Joseph was his father on Earth alone.

The Three Wisemen saw a star and followed it to Bethlehem. They asked Herod to see the king of the Jews, and he asked them to tell him when they find the King of the Jews. The Wisemen find him, offer gifts and leave without telling Herod. Herod then orders the killing of the young boys in Bethlehem, which forces Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt until Herod’s death.

What It Means

Mary’s Choice

The first part of the story when Mary accepts the task God asks of her shows His respect for free will and asserts that people are able to chose to accept or deny God. The fact that God sets up that boundary shows the love He has and exemplifies the love people should show each other: one which does not force or coerce, but invites and welcomes.

Virgin Birth of God

The next part is the most crucial and incredible. The idea that Jesus was born despite Mary being a virgin, means that He is the Son of God. He is the Logos, the What-Is-Not, the I Am, Creator of the Universe becoming human and being born of a woman. Reading John’s account of the story reminds the reader of this. This is God- the Word, or Logos- becoming man to express Truths that cannot be understood in any fashion without being spoken and taught the way Jesus did.

The Wisemen

The Wisemen are another interesting part of the story. They were monotheistic kings or priests from Persia who followed an astronomical anomaly across the Middle East to see what they believed would be something of divine nature. This story shows two things. One is the type of dedication, faith and wisdom necessary to seek God properly and to recognize Him in life the way the Wisemen did. The other is the recognition of the natural world as well. The stars aligned and the camels and oxen reacted to Jesus’ presence. What this shows is the power of God to demand natures’ “attention,” for lack of a better word, and that it is natural to seek and recognize God- not a human construct- because God preceded and created all of nature.

Fleeing To Egypt

The last part is an obvious allusion to the stories in Genesis and Exodus. In Genesis, Joseph is sold by his brothers into slavery, but they have to flee to Egypt to escape famine at home. They are freed by the plague which kills the first born son of the Egyptians. The opposite happens here as the killing of the first born sons causes Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt. Joseph, Mary’s husband, learns of the danger in a dream, which is what the other Joseph was known for, and is what rescued him from slavery.

This paragraph is my interpretation of the similarity of these events, not any church doctrine. I believe this symbolizes the breaking the chains of slavery in Egypt. God sends his Son to Egypt because that is the symbol of the slavery that held back the Jews. When Jesus comes to redeem us, it makes sense that he would go to Egypt to symbolize the breaking of the chains of death which he will do. This forebodes the Death and Resurrection as all three are a decent into a lowly state and being brought up and each time defeating death.

Last Words

As you celebrate Christmas, remember what you are celebrating. It is the day that God became man to save us from sin and death. That is a beautiful thing that gives more meaning to the family gatherings, nativity scenes, Christmas trees, lights and presents.

It is great to enjoy the aesthetics of Christmas. It is good to spend time with loved ones, give gifts and be joyful. It is important to remember what it is that gives meaning to all the traditions of the Christmas season, and that is God, because without Him there would be no love, joy or beauty to experience and appreciate. So thank Him when you get the chance and remember to keep the Christ in Christmas.

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Christian Lessons Learned From Taoism

Everyone has the tendency to look for reasons that prove their religion is right over another. It’s natural. People are banking their eternity on this set of beliefs to which they ascribe, so that’s kind of a big deal.

However, there is value in understanding the commonalities of religious thought as well. This isn’t about just morality, which is a big part of religious teaching, rather the way religions describe the cosmos and the role people play in the universe.

Now, the modern Christian world, built on Jesus’ teachings seems to be aligned closely to Judaism and contrary to most other religions. But, with a little bit of reading, it becomes apparent that the doctrines of Taoism and proprieties of Confucius.

For starters the word Tao translates to the Way. Not only were early Christians a sect of Judaism that called themselves the Way, but Jesus states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” Jesus is claiming here to be the incarnation of what Christians call God and Taoists call Tao.

The similarities continue in the exploration of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, which is a poetic description of early Chinese religious cosmogony. It describes their understanding of God and how to interact with God as an individual.

The Way seems empty. As it is tried, it is found inexhaustible.

Oh, how profound it is! It seems to be the Forefather of all beings. It quiets impetuosity. It looses bonds. It tempers its splendor. It follows lowliness.

Oh, how pure it is! It seems to abide forever. It is the Son of I-know-not. It seems to have been before the Lord of Heaven.

Explaining the Christian message in this should be unnecessary. It calls the Way the Forefather of all beings, just as Christians call God the Father who gave life to Adam and Eve. Lao Tzu says the Way slows reaction and breeds deliberation of action. It looses bonds as Jesus said, “I am the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” It follows lowliness and tempers splendor, which means it is present in humility and tears down the arrogant. He says it lives forever as the son of I-know-not. This is the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. Jesus is the Son of God, he is the Incarnation of the I-know-not.

Clay is fashioned into vessels. The use of the vessels depends on the empty space within. Doors and windows are framed in making a house. The use of the house depends on their empty spaces.

Therefore utility depends on what is manifest, but the use of a thing depends on what is manifest.

This is how the material and immaterial worlds work together. The idea is that it is the empty part of the vase, that which cannot be observed or accounted for, that gives it its purpose. Paul states, “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” Because people can never understand God until fully in his presence in the afterlife, He must communicate by explaining purpose through what can be observed. This is why He had to become man and walk with us. The only way to be the perfect vase is to have the perfect empty space within. Jesus had to be the perfect example as his “empty space within” is God, and his becoming man made it possible for us to understand.

The partial becomes complete. The crooked becomes straight. The empty becomes full. The worn out becomes new. He who has little (desire) finds the Way; he who has much, goes astray.

Therefore the Master keeps the oneness of the Way; he is the model of the world. He seeks not to be seen, therefore he gives light. He does not magnify himself, therefore he gives inspiration. He does not vaunt himself, therefore he has true worth. He does not glorify himself, therefore he is above all. He strives not, therefore none in the kingdom can stand against him.

The saying of the ancients: “The partial becomes complete,” is not an empty phrase. When a man has attained, the whole world is subject to him.

The first part is obviously in line with Christian teaching as Jesus heals the wounded and brings joy to the unfulfilled through their faith in Him. It is by trust and faith in Jesus that the broken people become whole.

The second part describes bending the will of one to God’s will. He keeps the oneness of the Way, therefore to be one with the Master is to be one with the Way, and Jesus says this. He says good works do not get you into Heaven, rather faith in Him does. By having faith in Him, the works will follow and will be the true will of God, not the will of the one acting on behalf of God. Following these actions that help to identify God, makes a person one with God.

The last part is a way of identifying the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. When people live the proper Christian values, the world is subject to them. That does not mean they are king of the world, rather they are masters in understanding the material through their understanding of the immaterial. This is not a conquering through oppression, but a changing of hearts to bring them into oneness with the Way, or in Christian words, into community with Christ.

The lessons of religion, when read deliberately can be shared. Common ground can be found and used as a foundation of peace and tolerance. These two religions seem contradictory at first, but there are a lot of important similarities between them that can create bonds between cultures. Instead of trying to prove religions right and wrong, delve into the details and find common ground that can lead to a better common understanding.

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