It’s Christmastime, “... when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave ...”. It’s a time of reflection and benevolence, in case we weren’t so focused during the year. It’s one of the two biggest events in the Christian calendar, solstice-based, marking the bookends of the life of Jesus Christ and all the hope his teachings meant to bring to us.
In my youth, I was raised Anglican – a good faith – by devout parents. As an adult, I have toyed with Christianity, questioning my beliefs, attending church less and finally not at all for a long time. I remain religious and my faith is regaining strength. Like my politics, my religious beliefs are practical, seeking common sense and logic, measured in a modern context. However, partly because I’m interested in history, I think about how we exist today, including how we believe and behave, compared to people centuries and millennia ago. Scholars like Barbara Tuchman and Edward Gibbon have shown a “distant mirror” on times past to reflect relevance to today. People lived, loved, thrived, survived and perished as we do today. Circumstances for our forebears were certainly simpler and harsher, but a world to which they adapted as we do today.
I wonder if Christ was alive today would we know it, and if so, would we accept his ministry? A few yes, most not; very much like his own time on Earth. Jesus Christ was a gifted, remarkable man; an inspirational orator, messianic and zealous in his belief in the Kingdom of God on Earth. He was a Jew, a rabbi, a reformer, angering the Romans and the Jewish religious hierarchy with his oratory. In his lifetime, not even himself saw Jesus as Son of God. Islam, founded 600 years later, views Christ as a major prophet, not a God. Paul, a late convert to Christianity, is widely attributed as the greatest propagator of Christianity, and along with Peter is deemed founder of the Christian Church. Paul’s ministry was certainly one focused on Christ’s divinity, preached years after Christ’s death. However, it wasn’t until 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, almost 300 years after Christ’s death, when Christian Roman bishops under Emperor Constantine declared Christ’s divinity and thereupon created the modern Son of God. Devout Christians would say that this is when the Roman Christian Church officially acknowledged the obvious. Jesus as God or God man-made remains debatable, but his impact and relevance is not.
God is mysterious, unknown except by faith, a force beyond and behind the universe. God is the unexplained part of science, and the explained part of perfection and beauty in our world. Most believers, including Jesus, humanize God to explain him on Earth. It helps, especially to people dominated by harsh, tyrannical regimes, whether it be Roman or some modern force. And the word of God is hope and peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Men and women who are beholden to no one but themselves, their humanitarian values and God.
“God bless us, every one.”
Roger Jackson is a former civil servant and a St. Albert resident.