Special to the Tribune-Star
Christmas with its gaiety, songs, carols, visits with family and friends, is indeed a wonderful time of the year. Yet, there is almost no reason for its being a celebration.
The Bible tells us shepherds were with their flocks in the hills when the Christ Child was born. Though it was 2,000 years ago, the herdsmen of that time do what herdsmen do now. In the summer they moved their cattle, horses, sheep, etc., to higher elevations because the weather was cooler up there. Also, the grass hasn’t been eaten for a year. The same thing is true of ancient Palestine … they moved the animals to higher elevations in the summer, moved them down in the winter where there are shelters and food supply. Obviously, and I think all people now know, Jesus was not born anywhere near December 25th. It was a church movement to place a Christian celebration on top of what was a very popular Roman pagan celebration called “Saturnalia.”
The Christian Bible is certainly not very clear about the birth. The three men who write about it do not have the same story at all. It’s rather confusing and this is from the writings of men of deep belief.
What’s more, the idea that Joseph put his young, pregnant wife on the back of a mule and went down 70 miles to Bethlehem in Judea is an actual affront to midwifery. The Romans, like any well-organized government, kept very good records. There is no record anywhere except the Biblical story that Cesar Augustus ever asked for a census and a taxation empire wide. There was absolutely no reason at all for Joseph to go to Bethlehem in Judea. The only reason would be to help prophesy for the new Messiah to come out of the ancestry of David, one of the early heroes of Jewish history. It reminds me of that old Gershwin line from Porgy and Bess that says, “The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible ain’t necessarily so.”
I guess all of this truth versus fiction doesn’t really matter. There is nothing in tradition that celebrates the Winter Solstice at this time of the year that can even come close to matching Christmas and its magic. I do not know what future Christians will think about all of this a thousand years from now, but I do hope many of the things of Christmas will remain with us … Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men. How could we say that without thinking of Christmas?
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.