Posts Tagged Christmas 2020
2020 has been a very difficult year. I’m sure by now many people are tired and weary. 2020 has been a disruptive year and I’m sure many will be glad to see the back of it. But we should never assume 2021 will be any better. Times do not change because Big Ben strikes twelve. Time is a flat circle and evil, fanaticism and sins are forever busy.
In my opinion, we do not live in a good era. Attacks and destruction are becoming too common. Massive earthquakes, floods, homelessness, deadly pandemics are slowly becoming over familiar. There is a lot of suffering out there and I would rather live in the past. Although there are some things of modernity that I am fond of, the world has become a very dark and cruel place, where people are trapped in a marred lens of imposing worldviews. Governments are proposing a Covid-19 vaccine, yet there is a continuous air of mistrust. Times are sneaky and untrustworthy. Everything is up for grabs. People are starving, while grab and greed are running amok.
Although England is an intrinsically peaceful country, things are changing and nowadays, she too seems to be running amok. Political chaos, and division. Riots, protests, lockdowns, corruption and deceptive conceit. It seems that everybody has an opinion yet few want to be challenged. Everyone is right in their own eyes. Many people are becoming aggressive toward any challenge of their beliefs and discussions are being restrained. Many fear that ‘freedom of speech’ is under attack. Maybe it is.
I’ll not rant, but it seems as the saying goes, the world has gone mad and I’m inclined to agree.
The ancient Greco Roman world was, (in my opinion), a much more safer world to live in. I say this because things were much quieter back then and the air was clean. For certain, dictators existed, and the powers that be, but they were fewer in number. People thought more and spoke slower. Communities were proper. Although I admire past times, I am fully aware the ancient worlds were not without their troubles and monstrous evils. If we focus upon the ancient Biblical lands, King Herod was by all accounts a wicked person. History purports, ‘Better to be one of Herod’s pigs than his son‘. Matthew 2: 16-18 claims it was Herod who ordered the slaughter of the innocents around the birth of Christ. This, by all accounts is entirely accurate and the type of thing that Herod was capable of ordering. Josephus records that Herod ordered ‘nobles’ executed at his death to ensure mourning.
The ancients didn’t celebrate Christmas as we do today. Studies show that it is very unlikely that Jesus was actually born on December 25. In a previous article I demonstrate how the Messiah was probably born at Nissan. In another previous article I have offered discussion concerning the historic possibilities of St. Luke’s references to the Census of Augustus and its whereabouts in his ancient world. These studies offer more insight for us to consider and can present a very real view of a very real world that once existed. The world of the New Testament was as real for the Gospel writers (and the Apostles) as today is for us. Consciousness was no less real for ancient persons than it is for each one of us. Evil has always been a very real existence. Yet Matthew and Luke’s Gospels communicate that as the Christ-child was born God was doing a great thing. The world was being redeemed and the Saviour was born to bring peace on earth and goodwill to mankind (Luke 2: 14). This is in the context of mankind being offered peace with God. But all around, things were all but peaceful. Matthew’s Gospel references the story of the wise men and the Massacre of the Innocents (by order of Herod) of all new born babies up to the age of two. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165 AD) claimed these wise men (Magi) were from Arabia (c. 160, E, 1.237). Matthew claims the wise men were warned in a dream that they “should not return to Herod” (Matthew 2: 12). Herod then viciously ordered a Massacre of all the male children and this evil happening was an angry response (from a wicked ruler) to the wise men who had deceived him.
Matthew puts it this way:
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” (Matthew 2: 16. NKJV)
Yet although things seemed dark, God was at work. Matthew records the famous “star” that appeared around the Messiah’s birth was seen in the East. In a previous article I discuss what this star could have been? Whatever it was, be it an actual star or the glory of the Lord, this light shone in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. Herod did not see beyond the narrow limits of his own mind and his own self-governed materialistic worldview.
Today, historians and astrologers know full well this star was not a tale of fiction. Ancient Greco Roman coins from Antioch, Syria from the time of Augustus affirm the star was a historically verifiable event.
“How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars. The light from this star was inexpressible, and its uniqueness struck men with astonishment.” (Ignatius. c. 105, E, 1.57)
What is clear is that the world is, and always has been a mess. Ever since Cain murdered Abel, this wretched world awaits a day of reckoning. That day will come, and although I confess, there are a lot of good and nice things in this world, (and I paint a dim picture), can you not see that evil is and always will be. Light cannot exist without darkness. Just as evil needs exist in order for good to triumph and yet through it all, God is speaking.
Regardless of the enemies of Christianity, or coronavirus, politics, cancel culture, or dates, times or seasons, Christmas exists in the heart. It is not a time, it is a state of being. Nothing can take that away from you. So regardless of what this world throws at you, be good to one another and remember that Jesus said “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 33)
Can you not hear His voice?
In 2019 I visited Westminster Abbey for the very first time. This was of course in our pre ‘Covid-19’ world which can at times seem a little difficult to conceive. It can almost appear a lifetime ago when people wandered around with hardly anybody wearing face masks, or socially distancing themselves.
To go back even further, I remember visiting Big Ben with my parents back in the 1980’s. However, since Lancashire is well north of London, many of my later visits had centralised themselves around the music scene. History had not yet taken it’s prominence with me.
Today, London has changed quite a lot. It is still however, one of those great places where all people can still find something to do. Whether you are a Christian or a history fanatic like me, a saint or a sinner, or someone who just likes to enjoy the moment, few can deny that visiting Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament rarely makes anyone feel out of place. Or at least it shouldn’t do.
Then comes matters of faith, where the soul of a Christian can often feel out of place in this ever changing world, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come.” (Hebrews 13: 14) Then comes the material Ecclesiastical buildings known as Churches. They can without doubt help the tent of the soul to feel at home. I certainly did, especially when I reached Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey is a beautiful place that was founded in 960 AD and although the present building dates to the 13th century, it is believed to be dedicated to St Peter.
Standing outside Westminster Abbey can leave a person in awe. While contemplating the many souls and pilgrims who have, for many centuries, been visiting and worshipping here, it is not difficult to reflect upon your own mortality.
It was here where, at the Abbey, where folklore claims the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul” either originated or at least, took on a new meaning. The story goes that when Westminster was dissolved in 1550, some of the assets were sold to fund the repairs for the old St Pauls.
Curiously enough, St Pauls Cathedral sits 2 miles away from Westminster Abbey who’s architecture differs dramatically. The former has external similarities to St Peter’s Basilica (Vatican), whereas Westminster Abbey is distinctly gothic.
At times the Abbey can have the feeling of looking like a ghost or a spirit from the past. It is alive but not alive, like a soul who has long gone but who’s spirit lives on. I speak course of the building, and not of any humans. The Christian Church however is not a building, but a people. A congregation of human souls who are united in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today however, Christians are not always united. Doctrine divides. One person follows this teacher, another follows that. Yet all claiming to read the same Bible. Strange isn’t it that too many congregations have separated themselves and are all too quick to condemn others for holding opinions that differ to their own. Yet each one reading from the same Bible.
However, it was here, at Westminster Abbey, on Saturday 23rd February 2019 that I decided for certain that I am joining the Church of England and here I will stay. The Anglican communion is far from perfect, but at least here people can agree to disagree.
Since that time I have been drawn to prayer more than ever and the Book of Common Prayer has helped me enormously through the difficult seasons of lockdown.
Today, in September 2020, a person does not need to look very far to see that this world is a mess. England is no better. Such is always the case when nations abandon the principles of their Maker. But I have a hope within me that England and the Church will be great again, even if the Lord judges her before that time. Light After Darkness (Post Tenebras Lux) is written in creation. Of this I am sure.
I am also sure that although great buildings may not actually be the Church, they can certainly help believers congregate together, and hopefully, if right doctrine permits, dwell together in unity and in truth.