Saturday, 23 December 2017

Silent nights, but hectic days

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“A long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible say, Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day.” So starts one of our most popular carols, although the composer says it’s not a carol, but a Christmas song. Written in 1956 in calypso-style by Jester Hairston, Harry Belafonte heard the song being performed by Walter Schumann’s Hollywood choir and sought permission to add it to his album ‘An Evening with Harry Belafonte.’ An edited version was subsequently released as a single and became a worldwide hit.

Theologians however could be excused for having trouble with the last line of the verse; “And man will live for evermore because of Christmas day.” Strictly speaking, that’s not what the ‘Holy Bible say.’ According to Jesus’ parable of the sower only one in four (the good soil) who hear the message of the Kingdom will fully discern it and bear fruit and therefore receive salvation.

And it would be safe to assume that includes both men and women.

However in an increasingly secular world this minor aberration won’t matter too much. After all it is the season to be jolly, say the organisers of the world, and then they throw anxiety, strain, and financial hardship at us. For good measure they allow heat exhaustion if we live in the Southern hemisphere, or, in a cruel twist of fate, freezing cold conditions for our fellow global villagers in the northern reaches.

Christmas need not be recognised by atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus and all manner of people who don't have to get involved, but in an almost suicidal bid to be part of the action they go along with most of the traditions and even mark their own calendars from the year of Christ’s birth, despite some suspect timing.

It’s now thought that the sixth-century Roman Monk Dionysious Exiguus who established the Christian calendar may have miscalculated His birth by about 5 years. If so, this means we could actually be living in the year 2022!

Also much controversy and speculation surrounds the date of Jesus’ entry into the world; over 100 different options being ascribed. Many say shepherds do not allow their flocks to be out between November and April; too cold, therefore the child must surely have been born in the Northern hemisphere summer, between May and October.

Others claim December the 25th was chosen in the fourth century by the Christian church because on this, the longest night of the Northern hemisphere year, pagans celebrated the victory of the god of light over the god of darkness. A competitive celebration, a “Christ Mass,” was therefore set up to honour the birth of the “Light of the world.”

Whatever, we’ve stuck rigidly to the December option and from that doubtful decision we insist that all the jobs we wanted done around the place over the past year are finished by that mystical moment in time, and the pressure mounts.

The pace of life quickens considerably as we approach the so-called “festive season” and hospital emergency departments gear up for people presenting with stress-related illnesses and ready themselves to receive the victims of road accidents, often incurred because of excessive alcohol intake, for many an essential stimulant for the period, so that the uncertified birthdate is celebrated in real style.

Sadly, the birthday Boy barely rates a mention these days as the jolly white-bearded man in the red suit seems to have acquired centre stage. And while harassed shoppers try to buy the right present for the right person at the right price, available carparks outside gift shops disappear faster than people who admit they voted for amalgamation!

I heard a story about a lady who was shopping with her two small children in a department store before Christmas. She waited for an elevator and when the door opened she saw that it was full, but just managed to squeeze herself and her two small children in. As the elevator began to move, and barely able to breath in the confined space, she turned to those around her and said, “You know whoever started this Christmas thing ought to be shot!”

“No need,” said a voice from the back, “We already crucified Him.”

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.” - Shirley Temple.


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