Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmastide - The Ordinary Extraordinary

Were there 9 ladies a-dancing around Jesus' crib on this date in 4 BC? Probably not, and if there were they would most likely have been little Bethlehem neighbor girls come to see the new baby. In a town so small it didn't even leave physical evidence that it existed at this time, babies were fairly rare.

The Christian Movement's calendar goes off to commemorate 2 important theologians on this date, and really does not come back to the Savior of the World until the last Day of Christmas, Epiphany. And, to speak anachronistically for a moment, Jesus at this point was probably quite happy the calendar had nothing scheduled today. Yesterday was a big, painful, and exhausting day: his circumcision. The newborn king was no doubt rather uncomfortable today.

It would have been easier to come up with blog subjects if I'd chosen the supposed spiritual meanings embedded in that famous old Yule ditty about Lords a-leaping and pear trees. But the pattern for the 12 Days of Christmas that we find in the Christian calendar (all flavors), the pattern of a few important events surrounded by days and days of utter ordinariness, is even more significant because it is so like our lives. The manifestation of the Messiah was happening in this way because God chose to become utterly human.

Here the Common English Bible's rendering of the traditional phrase "Son of Man" as "the Human One" comes into its own, I think, because it points up (and perhaps even overemphasizes) the human-ness of Jesus. With the signs and wonders that fill Jesus' story it can be, and in fact has proven to be, all too easy to think of him simply as a divine being. We forget that that is not what the Christian Movement teaches.

"'Who do people say the Human One is?'" He is "'the Christ, the Son of the living God,'" (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16 verses 13 and 16, CEB).

After much struggle on exactly how to define such a unique thing, theologians finally realized that the data of Scripture demanded that he was not just God, not a man who became God, not a man whom God temporarily used then discarded, but the most mysterious alternative of all: Fully God and Fully human. The God of the universe living as a human in full, being and experiencing all that it is to be human while never ceasing to be God in every way. This is one of the things about Christianity that you can never reach the end of.

Interestingly, the 2 important theologians I mentioned earlier were pivotal in figuring this out. Maybe this day in the Christian calendar is about Christmastide after all.

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