Only one person in the history of the world has been a divider of time. Whether you believe or not, it is only Jesus, by whom we set our calendars. Now here we are in the Year of Our Lord 2022, getting ready to celebrate his birthday. Of course, we really do not know exactly when he was born. Calendars, as we know them, were not really in use at that time and frankly, his year would have been numbered based on the Hebrew counting of the years when he was born in Bethlehem.
Did you know that Bethlehem likely only had about 300 people then, and his hometown of Nazareth somewhere between 400 and 2,000? No wonder the Romans wanted a census done! In fact, the entire world, in what we would later call year 1AD, only contained about 300 million people. This number was relatively constant, give or take a plague or two, for over 1,000 years. Around 1800 it reached 1 billion and over the last 222 years, we have reached over 7 billion.
Yet, one small child born in a stable in a town of 300 people has left an imprint upon the hearts and minds of the world for two thousand years. His words, life, and death, have spawned all kinds of religions and sects, and wars, death, and destruction, all done in his name, but not based on his words. No one else in history has had these kinds of effects over this span of time. No one.
So whether you believe or not I ask you to focus on his words, his lessons, all that which was given to us by a young Rebbe, the child of a teenager, who gathered around him a small group of people who left us his words and slowly built one of the most pervasive cultural institutions ever known. Within 300 years, the words of this man became the official religion of the known western world. Believe it or not, I find this fascinating by itself. How did the words of a Jewish teacher become the driving force of so much of our western thought?
So here we are on the eve of his celebrated birth. If you are as I am, the holidays bring a roller coaster of emotional swings. I am not sure I am designed to handle these mental gymnastics because 1) they wear me out, and 2) they cause me to lose sleep, and when you are already a bad sleeper losing sleep is not affordable.
Once you start thinking about life, no not the meaning of life, but instead your own purposes, it does not seem to have an off switch. It is driving across southern Georgia, working on the tractor, watching a ballgame, stopping at Publix, waiting for the doctor, sitting in the dark at 2:37 am kind of reflection. I am hearing Carly Simon singing about her dad sitting at night, ‘his cigarette glows in the dark’ kind of reflection. But in the end, it all comes back to thinking about the birth of a then insignificant child in a stable in a very remote part of the world.
This is a long way to say I am thinking about you too! How do you and I fit into all of this? How do we best celebrate? Is there room for honest reflection in this commercialized secular celebration?
Life is busy and confusing sometimes. We all have our joyous moments and our lingering sadness too. It is the human condition. Therefore, I am just saying that if you find yourself too much at the bottom of that roller coaster, please talk to someone. Perhaps do as I do and begin reading, often seeking texts of the Good Word that helps, but also finding solace in the writings and interpretations of others. Don’t wait until you get a George Bailey moment needing a Clarence Odbody. Find a way to focus on the Joy in life, even if right now your view is opaque or even just blocked. It is there.
Sometimes the toils and troubles find a way to get all of our attention. It is the bad kid in the classroom syndrome. He is likely bad because he carries too much baggage, but his angst consumes the room. That is what our darker thoughts tend to do too.
As I have written many times before, find a way to grab joy along the way. Put down that heavy baggage. Embrace those you love, and who surely love you. Did you know the phrase “do not be afraid” is in the Bible 365 times, once for each day? Maybe a good mantra to wake up to each day!
In the original King James Version of the Bible, the word ‘love’ is mentioned 310 times. I am not sure how often it was used in each of the original manuscripts, I am thinking all those Irish monks who saved civilization as they sat in their hovels and meticulously translated the words of the ancient scripts into English for the common man to read had the many versions of love on their minds. The spirit of love was in their hearts while wine and other spirits were in their bellies.
Scholars claim there are seven types of love in the Bible. They are: Eros – “Romantic Love;” Philia – “Affectionate Love;” Storge – “Familiar Love;” Pragma – “Enduring Love;” Philautia – “Self-Love/Self-Compassion;” Ludas – “Playful Love;” and Agape – “Unconditional Love.”
That gives all of us many targets to hit, especially this week when two of the major faiths are celebrating. Bo Diddley asked in 1956, “Who Do You Love?” Well, who? May your days be filled with Agape, Pragma, Eros and Storge.
Oh and hug somebody with a real hug. Hugs are good. My son Brady gives the best hugs, but he is in Tokyo and I am not sure that is a hugging culture. During these next couple of weeks, be a hugger. You never know who truly needs the warmth derived from that simple act of human kindness.
Above all things, know these words from 1 Corinthians 13:13. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” Be true to yourself. Seek happiness and figure out both how to be happy and more importantly how to share it widely. Lastly, I will always still say, “grab all the joy along the way!”
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