While lots of the Western world (and even the East) celebrate Xmas, the question possibly furthest from our minds is who exactly is X?
Let's take a look at what we don't know:
1. We don't know Jesus' real name. Strange that because we know the real name of folks like Caesar and Pliny the Elder, but for Jesus there are a whole bunch of permutations that no one is quite sure of - Yesu, Joshua, John. One thing is for sure, no one in Israel was ever called Jesus. Jesus is our word for possibly someone who may have existed, but that alone ought to make Christians sit up a little and pay attention.
2. We don't know when X was born. We don't know the day, month or year. Although we confidently base the calendars of the entire Western world around the birth and death of Christ (BC/AD), it's an incredibly irony that the date we hold as Jesus' (December 25th) birth is false. For 2 billion people who believe they have a monopoly on the exclusive God-inspired truth, they're rather casual about this. Of course the pagan date says a lot more about Christmas than anything else, it is a celebration of the victory of the sun over winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
3. There is also a lot of uncertainty over where Jesus was born. Was he of Nazareth, or Bethlehem? There is considerable debate whether Bethlehem even existed as a settlement at the time of Jesus' birth. The rchaeologist Aviram Oshri is one expert who refers to an absence of evidence of the settlement of Bethlehem near Jerusalem at the time when Jesus was born. The reason Bethlehem needs to have existed? The name means 'house of bread', which coincides with the constellation Virgo, and Jesus was supposed to have been born of a virgin.
4. The Census that is supposed to have taken place and prompted Joseph and Mary to go to the Inn/Stable in Bethlehem took place in 6/7AD. Some believe the Census in question took place in 46AD. What is very strange is this idea that Jews, who were not Roman Citizens, were supposed to partake in a census of the Roman Empire, and worse, to return to the homes of their ancestors in order to do so. The reality of all people moving to ancestral homes at the same time would be massively chaotic, and stretches the bible's credibility to the limit.
5. What is interesting and compelling, is that despite the name 'Christmas', even Christains tend to celebrate Christmas by following pagan rituals - the use of a green tree, decorated in gold and silver, with gifts placed below. Obviously none of these rituals have any relationship to Jesus or the nativity story itself. In fact the Christmas tree is basically a 'Christianisation' of pagan tradition, something Christians don't seem to mind (as they also don't seem to mind worshipping a 'real' god, on a day set aside for pagan celebrations (and as mentioned above, associated with the winter solstice).
What do we know? Christianity and Christmas are similar to Santa Claus and other fictions - a lot of fun, but not necessarily harmless fun. But for those who find Christmas a stretch, express your protest by referring to it as Xmas.
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