Smorgasbord: Jesus Christ and Christmas commercialism (1/2)


By CHERYL L. DAYTEC-YANGOT

First of two parts

“Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season,” says a message circulating in cyberspace.

December 25 is the presumed birthday of Jesus Christ. This is debatable because when he was born, shepherds were out watching their flocks at night. In those days, flock-watching in the fields was possible from spring to autumn. During winter, the sheep were sheltered in the shepherds’ homes. Israel’s temperature can drop to really low levels in winter. It must have been lower in the old days when global warming was unimaginable. The biting cold could pose an insurmountable obstacle to shepherds attending to their flocks at night.

Moreover, when Jesus’ birth was drawing nigh, Augustus Caesar ordered a census in the Roman Empire and everyone was mandated to be counted. In Jesus’ place and time, you did not wait for census officers to knock on your door. You had to register in the town of your lineage. Which was why the young couple, Joseph and the very pregnant Mary, hit the road to Bethlehem, the town of King David who was Joseph’s ancestor. An important undertaking like a census could not have been scheduled in winter when the weather was harsh for travel.

Historians say that December 25 was deliberately chosen as it was also the day Pagans honored the sun god Mithras. The celebrations were synchronized to accelerate the acquiescence by pagans to Christianity when it was declared as the Roman Empire’s official religion . In other words, choosing December 25 was a calculated political move.

That aside, it remains that Christmas has always been traditionally about Jesus Christ. And yet, it is not about him at all. The crass commercialism characterizing the season goes against everything he advocated.

Jesus is one of the leading figures in human history. Christians believe that he came as God. There are not a few skeptics who doubt this, but no one can deny that he came as a man. In a world of misery and greed such as the one we have today, it is worth looking into his life, at least as a man. He had more than a mouthful to say against greed and oppression.

He lived a life of purpose. “I came,” he said, “that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.” By they, he was referring to the poor and the oppressed. To propagate his ideology, he chose members of the working class as assistants. He and his disciples walked the streets and went to all corners their sandaled feet could take them to preach about loving one’s neighbors as loving oneself and doing unto others what one wanted done unto oneself. He exhorted everyone to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the sick and share resources. He put the welfare of others above his personal comfort. The issues of the poor and the powerless found a champion in him.

A recurring theme in his speeches was socialism or something akin to it. He said one cannot serve both God and wealth. Once, he delivered a sermon and, at midday, commanded that loaves and fish in a boy’s lunch basket be shared by everyone. At another time,a rich man asked him what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus recited the Ten Commandments. The young man said, “I have done all of that. What do I need to do further?” Jesus told him, “Sell your possessions, give to the poor.” The man of immense wealth left with a heavy heart for he could not do as Jesus asked. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven,” Jesus remarked sadly.

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