Inspection- Babel-ing for the Baby Jesus: Christmas 2017
Early one late December morning in the Christ house the clock alarm went off…
“Joseph, why did you set the alarm so early? You know us virgins need our beauty rest.”
“I’m sorry, Mary, but through the grape vine lines I heard Roman SS stormtroopers are on the march. We needed the extra time: Holyland Security is watching the airports because Herrod isn’t Pro-Life. Since all the soldiers are watching the airports I have the Porsche ready and I think we can find a Manger 6 at a safe distance as long as we take the “long and winding way” via Interstate Route 666…
There’s so much wrong with all that that I’ll just let you chuckle while I Beatles around the burning bush that’s chasing me for committing heresy for the sake of an admittedly weak joke.
Point being, on a personal level, we hardly have a clue about the hardships our ancestors went through, like how hard it was when one couple walked a great distance to keep a future savior safe. Oh, we can talk about it, think about it, but actually “know” what it was like? No. Yet, every year, we try to understand who they were, what they went through, so many years ago. Certainly the babble created by so many mixed metaphors creates a lot of babel, just like over 2,000 years ago a lot of different kinds of beliefs were inspired by events we celebrate Christmas day and Easter. So, as we celebrate it today, is it any surprise there are so many mixed metaphors? How many traditions were modified so that, today, our yuletide burns bright?
But maybe that’s not that important…
So much we think we know today about yesterday doesn’t really matter as much as we think it does. There’s no known record of the date of his birth, or his execution. If the dates are wrong does it really matter? Maybe not as much as we think. To spout a cliche’, isn’t it the thought that counts? Too much focus on inconsistencies obscures the message.
The way we celebrate would have been incomprehensible to Jesus and his disciples. The garland’s origins are gruesome, as is the origin of Christmas trees. On a shallow level, yes, Santa is a diversion from Jesus. The gifts we bestow, even in some of our poorest households, would have seemed outright opulent to those who heard the Sermon on the Mount. But if it all helps us be better believers, better followers, and accept others with different visions, that may be more Christ-like than we think.
As with all faith, or lack of faith, what we do with it and how we treat others, how welcoming we are, are at least as important as what we believe. If you read what Jesus taught many of his parables express similar sentiments. If you look at those within his ministry: those closest to him, they really were a mixed lot. Despite that, at best one could argue the only one kicked out of the “Jesus club” wasn’t kicked out for logical incorrectness, and Jesus didn’t do the kicking.
Instead one could argue Jesus didn’t demand those who followed him be theologically correct as much as he hoped to both teach and inspire belief. How well he succeeded is obvious. Those closest to him went wide and far to inspire more believers, and for more than 2,000 years this inspired more and more believers all over the world. That may be his biggest, grandest, miracle of all.
Early Christianity split into what was close to what we consider orthodox today, Ebionites, followers of Marcion and many versions of Gnosticism. Today we have at least as many variations, just different. With all the different types of believers, and non-believers who also celebrate the season, the house that houses humanity certainly could be compared to a biblical story: House of Babel. Most traditionalists view Babel as punishment for human failings, but I tend to wonder if even the writers got the lesson wrong. Maybe the true lesson was to accept such challenges, to keep reaching out to each other, to keep trying to inspire, bring us together. These are the hills we must climb, the fences we must get over, life’s complications we must chew up so they can become part of who we are, make us more than who we are.
We get so hung up on what I think Jesus would have considered less significant. Does it really matter if we sprinkle or dip? If we don’t do “this in memory of me” exactly as he did it does that matter as much as trying to fathom lessons that can be gleaned from his parables? Where we go when we die is an important question, but if any supposed Christian thinks Jesus would rather someone accept him as their savior but still scorn the poor, beat his children, wife, husband, murder whomever gets in the way, steal from neighbors I think you may have missed the Jesus boat.
Christmas is a time when most of us celebrate a season despite our differences, accept those who celebrate in different ways, those who love the traditions but may not believe. We attempt to get through all the babble the season has to offer by traditionalists and non-traditionalists going with the seasonal flow, finding joy in the season through our relationships with others. Families, with all their inner conflict, get back together despite the fact family gatherings may resemble the historical Babel.
Some wish “Merry Christmas,” some “season’s greetings,” or just respond with a happy “Ho, ho, ho.” Some celebrate other holidays. I view this all; not with some sense of being offended by theological incorrectness, but like how all the houses decorated in unique ways. It’s humanity celebrating the joy of the season as best they can, collectively. Yes it all could be viewed, collectively, as “babble,” or just beautiful. We choose to enjoy, or not.
Maybe Babel was a real place, maybe not. But maybe the more important story is how wise men and women still attempt to bridge distances so we can celebrate together as best we can. And for a savior who used parables to try to bring us together, I can’t think of a more appropriate, more holy way, to spend our time this season.
”(Christmas) …the one time of year we become the people we’re supposed to be.”-Bill Murray in Scrooged.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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