Jesus Christ, a person of interest
What do you want most for Christmas? I don’t mean a tangible thing you can hold in your hands. I mean, what do you really want deep down inside?
Freedom from bondage?
We’re drawing near to the end of 2021. This was supposed to be the good year; the year after the terrible 2020. It wasn’t the good year. It was worse in many ways. COVID is still with us and still rampaging across the world with new variants. Political unrest continues throughout the world. No peace at home. Racial tensions continue. Our leaders continue to show just how frail and human we really are. There are no superheroes in the real world to save us from the Thanos’s of the universe.
So why is it that Christmas seems to bring so much hope? What is it about Christmas that almost redeems the rest of this year?
We can try our best to focus on magical beings like Santa and his reindeers. We can romanticize our relationships on the Hallmark channel. We can lift our glasses filled with the beverages of forgetfulness and retreat for a moment from reality. We can drown ourselves in consumerism and the latest physical thing. We can even try our best to be a part of some kind of family. But there is something transcendent and metaphysical about this season.
In ancient Europe, the evergreen tree was viewed as a source of this magical feeling of life, persistence, hope. During the harsh winters, the evergreen tree branches with their green leaves stood out against the cold, harsh white wash of winter. Bringing them into the house brought a sense of hope that spring would come and this cold, deadly embrace of icy winter would one day come to an end. And, hopefully the present day struggles would also come to an end.
The evergreen tree stood for a stubbornness against the reality of cold, ending death. It was no wonder that the tradition of the evergreen wreath and branches would one day become the Christmas tree. A tree. A thing of wood and leaves and sap whose roots reached deep into the earth for sustenance and whose leaves and limbs were designed to be narrow and hard to withstand the frozen grip of winter. It wasn’t long until that tree became a reminder of another “tree” on which a very famous man was crucified and the legacy of his life to all mankind.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-14
Let’s stop for a moment and think about this. A tiny child born in an obscure Middle East village to a carpenter and a very young woman. A voice crying in the cold night. What made this child so different? What made this child so significant?
But most important, look at some of the words the angels spoke:
Don’t be afraid
To all people
Lying in a manger
Goodwill toward all mankind
What is it about a newborn child that promises to bring to the world all these things? What was the world like at that moment in time?
Palestine was under the rule of the Roman Empire whose Emperor demanded he be worshipped as a god. Talk about delusions of godhood! But, the Romans allowed Palestine to have some semblance of self rule. And so King Herod, not even of the Jewish faith, ruled over the people with cruel and deadly force! He made the Emperor look like a kind man. But, Herod allowed the local people to be ruled by the religious legal system. And so everyday life was also affected by onerous and difficult religious requirements from an aloof and hypocritical ruling theocracy.
Women had no rights to speak of. Men did not speak to women in public. A man only had to speak the word and he could divorce his wife. Children were dispensable. Life was difficult enough without all of these ruling forces bearing down on them.
There was no peace. Prisoners were crucified with regularity for breaking Roman laws. Offenders were stoned by their fellow citizens for breaking religious laws. At the very least, they were ostracized and pushed out of society for having an illness such as leprosy. There was little joy. And goodwill? Not much of that to go around. And, if you were a Samaritan! The worst sort of racial cruelty was exacted by the Jewish nation toward an citizen of Samaria.
It wasn’t much different than today. Same song, second verse. Different faces; different forces; same effect.
So how was a tiny baby going to change all of that?
J. Warner Wallace’s newest book, “Person of Interest” puts all of this in astonishingly bright perspective. He looks at this one man, this Jesus of Nazareth, who showed up in a manger on a cold winter night and then disappeared for thirty years before bursting onto the scene in the tiny, obscure country of Palestine. Jesus never wrote anything down. He never traveled very far from his home town. He surrounded himself with social outcasts and “sinners”. He only met King Herod after his trial. He was beaten and condemned by the religious leaders for blasphemy. He was crucified after only three years of ministry.
And yet, this child who grew up to be an unassuming man changed all of human history. There’s a good reason why.
Stop for a moment and think about my opening words. We cherish this time of year for a deep, mostly unforgotten reason. Christmas is not about Santa or Hallmark movies or holiday “magic”. It’s about the legacy left by a child born in an animal trough. Pause for a moment and cherish the promise of:
Goodwill to all men
And the most important: LOVE.
Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God or just a momentary flash in the pan of great, moral teachers, you cannot deny he changed all of human history for the better. His teachings gave us freedom, unity, diversity, respect, inner tranquility, and much, much more.His teachings and actions laid the foundation for all of modern civilization! He treated women with equality. He welcomed children. He touched the untouchable, lepers. He accepted the prostitutes and the tax collectors. He spoke to a Samaritan woman! He gave us three simple commands:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love one another as I have loved you and go and teach all these things to the world.
Love. Over and over Jesus used that word. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. More importantly, what the world needs now is the love that Christ spoke of; the love Christ exemplified; the love he showed in dying on the cross for our failures.
His only words of condemnation were for the hypocritical religious leaders of the day for becoming a barrier between people and their relationship to God.
Christian or atheist; Buddhist or Hindu; Muslim or Jew; agnostic or “none” I challenge you to read the book, “Person of Interest”. I CHALLENGE you! Don’t go another moment alienated from the real Jesus Christ or continue to doubt his existence unless you have seen all the facts. And ALL of the hard, non Biblical facts are right there carefully examined by this cold case detective in his book. But then you might not want to read that book. It might change your life!
Merry Christmas this year as we enjoy all the benefits of the Christmas season and at least for one moment pause and recite those words about the child born in an obscure manger who changed the world and all of humanity for eternity!
Peace, goodwill toward all mankind!
Posted on December 23, 2021, in Steel Chronicles and tagged J. Warner Wallace, Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Jim Wallace, manger, Nativity, Person of interest, the Chosen. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Jesus Christ, a person of interest.