Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Feast of the Unconquered Son

I realise this is a dreadful play on the Latin words.

Sol Invictus. The undefeated sun, from the Sol cult. A late Roman festival, held on 25th December to celebrate this deity  may or may not be responsible for the date we celebrate Christmas.

Saturnalia an earlier festival that started in the third century BC held from 17th December onwards is more often linked to Christmas in modern tradition; but there is no real connection.

But on 25th December I was very happy to celebrate the feast of Gods unconquered Son; even if we don't really have a clue what time of day, what time of of year he was born - or even what year for that matter. 

I would love to know the details, when / where / how.....  Why did Mary go with Joseph? We guess that only males were required to travel to their home towns because of the census. Did Joseph take her away with him because she was an outcast in her own home and town because of her unexpected pregnancy?  Did Mary travel on a donkey? No idea. Did they travel alone or with friends / relatives?

There is a subtle hint that maybe he was not born straight away after they arrived in Bethlehem: "While they were there" the time came for the baby to be born. It was probably not a romantic little stable in a Bethlehem inn (there was after all NO room at the inn). Maybe in a field, or a borrowed house. Some tradition has it that he was born in a cave. Possibly a barn. Barn / stable - what difference. Somewhere poor anyway. He had to be put in a manger to sleep. Sounds awfully scratchy for soft newborn skin.

Shepherds visited him the night after he was born. Shepherds, the lowest of the low - why did God choose them in particular? We hear no more about them - what happened to them after this/ Did any of the shepherds survive to become disciples? Did they bring him a lamb? Not very likely if he was born in mid winter, but there are no clues about this in the Bible. What did the locals think when the shepherds were racketing around Bethlehem celebrating the birth? Did anyone else see the angels?

What did the locals think of the whole thing? How bitter were they about the escape of one child when all the other young boys in their town were massacred? That takes us to the Wise men. Where did they come from? (the 'East' - very informative!) How many were they, did they fully understand the significance of their gifts? Did they follow a star, or simply see a star as the were skywatching at home, then see it again when they finally found their way to Bethlehem? Were they really so naive as to believe Herod? And how old was Jesus when they reached the village? He is called a 'young child' not a baby in that part of the story. And Herod told his soldiers to kill all boys under two, so Jesus was probably at least a toddler.

How did Mary and Joseph feel about it all? I think what would have impressed me most was Jesus' welcome in the Temple, when his parents took him there. Anna and Simeon - wow! What prophecies!

I would love to know about the family's stay in Egypt. How long? What happened? 

The rest of Jesus childhood is almost a closed book. He had siblings; I would guess all younger than him unless they were half siblings as some traditions have it; four brothers and some unnamed sisters.  He lived in Nazareth for some of the time. His father was a carpenter / builder. Was he working on some of Herods great building projects? It would be so good to learn more.

Pup is crazy about the carol 'Once in Royal Davids City' at the moment after learning it in school choir. It has a few lines that had himself and me in hysterics recently:

'Christian children all must be
Mild obedient, good as he'

Our boys mild, obedient?? If this was the young Jesus, then it's a role model they just could not live up to. So maybe it's a good thing that we just don't know what sort of child he was. If he was 'Our childhoods pattern', he would give every child a complex, mine not the least. So I think I'd rather not know some of the details. But the story fascinates me, and I would really love to know more about the incredible story of how Gods unconquered son was made a child, and came to live on Earth.

'Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made man'

(from Charles Wesleys hymn  'Let earth and heaven combine')

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