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Sun

21

Dec

2008

There is Indeed a Christmas Story
Sunday, 21 December 2008 19:18
by Mathew Maavak

Kuala Lumpur, Dec 21, 2008

The Transplanted Christmas Tree


There cannot be Christmas without children. On Dec 25, you will truly appreciate this paraphrase: "The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to children."

On this day, children all over the world turn color blind to appreciate the pastel-perfect joys of Santa Claus and his reindeers, Yule logs burning by the fireplace, sylvan snow-topped cabins with their smoky chimneys, and ornamented Christmas trees with presents piled up. There may be Christmas carol sorties into your home, bringing much mirth and the familiar Ho! Ho! Ho!

Never had such a transplanted festival create a sense of oneness among children. Take away Christmas and you take away a seasonal joy entitled to them. It is so innately appealing to children that they universally provide the finest celebratory squeals in honor of the most famous birth ever recorded — and contested — in history.

Wherever there is a Santa, a Christmas tree or carols sung, few adult killjoys dare reprimand children that none of the scenes and lilts of nativity are well, native.

Christmas traditions had drifted to much of the world on crests of colonial waves. The sinews of raw power may be flexed to determine new rulers, codicils, industries and taxations but in its veins flow a more permanent infusion of culture, languages and traditions. Take away some newer traditions and you will be up against an army of children. Or, adults for that matter.

If you are one to ponder over alien semiotics and cultural subversion as some philosophers do, listen to the lyrics of the Spanish-English carol Donde Esta Santa Claus. When the tempo nears its apogee, hark ye the Ole! Ole! Ole! There is nothing Christian in this. In fact, even today, few Spaniards — frenzied football and matador fans alike — realize that the trademark Iberian rally cry literally invoke (the intervention of) Allah! Allah! Allah! It is tradition that goes back a millennium to the Moorish Caliphates of Spain.

Traditions are our heritage.


Christmas may come in nuanced forms, but the one which universally prevailed is the Germanic variant. If you have a plastic Christmas tree bedecked with lights and decorations, play a soft O' Tannenbaum (O' Fir Tree) to enliven the atmosphere. The song is better known as O' Christmas Tree in another German tongue — English. Even the Vienna Choir Boys, purveyors of the finest caroling traditions, switch between both languages to stamp the Teutonic nature of a universal Christmas.

And touching on Vienna, the city lies on a cultural fault line that has a bearing on Christmas. It was here that the great Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich made a startling observation: Asia begins at the Landstrasse (a street in Vienna).

He was right.

Move eastwards and Dec 25 is postponed by the stubborn chronometry of the Julian calendar to Jan 6 or 7. This is the day when much of Orthodox Christianity celebrates Christmas, from Belgrade to Athens to Moscow to Istanbul. Only in a non-Christian Jerusalem can there be three Christmases celebrated by legacy custodians — on Dec 25, Jan 6 and Jan 7.

The failure to celebrate Christmas together is no mere calendrical curio; it is a truncated event that that symbolizes a splintered Christendom. Croatians and Serbs may share a common tongue and may have intermarried beyond overt differentiation, but they remain age-old nemeses.

It gets deeper. Despite their common European heritage, Americans and Russians display a mutual suspicion that is so primeval, and so ingrained that it could not have sprung from 80 years of Bolshevism. (They are both market capitalists today).

It is primeval allright, dating back to 1054AD when the Eastern Church balked at the ecclesiastical demands of Roman Catholicism. The split was venomous and even today, long after the subsequent protestant and charismatic revolutions within the Church, ingrained prejudices remain colored by the Roman lens.

This event led to centuries of biased theological scholarship and a subsequent obscuring of Dec 25.

The intellectuals, the rationalists and the logicians would scoff at them all. It is all there recorded in the pages of history: Dec 25 was a Roman tribute to Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun)!

Case closed. Christmas is pagan. Sorry kids!

Actually, not so fast...Ho! Ho! Ho!

Roots of the Historical Christmas

The birth and life of Jesus is now dubbed the "Greatest Story Ever Told." It sounds like a fantastical bedtime story, ideal for kids but little more.

Adults though have a problem unlike children. In their quest for meaning, they still want to believe in something. This story is an archetype that echoes through their consciousness, in movies, in books, and in deeds. Anyone who has ever stopped to help a stricken neighbor, or who had embraced those deemed unworthy, hopeless or condemned relives that story.

It goes back to Eden.

According to ancient accounts, a Divine plan was activated to salvage man from his own folly, rebellion, and inability to take dominion of the earth in a state of harmony.

Thus, a part of the Divine Himself would be born in human form, to sow the seeds of truth and salvation. This was leadership by living example and ultimately, through sacrificial death. Christians believe Jesus was the One.

To man then, as it is today, life meant warfare. He had to either cut down or undercut his neighbor to maintain an existential equilibrium. Call it the Global Trinity where there must be a victor, a subject, and a collateral damage. It was, and remains, a dog eat dog world, even when the crumbs get fewer.

Old plots are rehashed perennially in new guises.

If the year 2009 promises uncertainty, be advised: The same failed success stories — no oxymoron here — are still around, regrouping in another guise to build another towering eyrie out of the rubble of their latest failed enterprise.

There is nothing new under the sun, as the wise King Solomon would say.

The starkest ancient account of this enterprise was the Tower of Babel project, where, the most intelligent of men saw the need for order, with One Religion, One Language, One Financial Standard, and One Code of Laws to govern, and exert dominion over mankind.

Sounds familiar?

If you like surrendering your life — even your thought life — to an elite few, this idea might appeal to you. Think of it! No more ethno-religious wars, no more terrorism, no more "Us vs Them" as everything is adjudicated by the ones "Above."

And there will be free-for-all welfare! Those who resist this, or who believe in some Bethlehem fairy tale should be struck by Jardis of Narnia.

Communism failed folks, and some of its high priests have turned into hedge fund managers, sub prime stars, and AAA+ consecrated Ivy Leaguers that an irreligious Dow Jones just fails to apotheosize, just as the plebeians failed to appreciate Marxism earlier. There has to be greater order, greater enforcement, and greater scrutiny. Nothing less than a New World Order.

The Bible says God saw through such thoughts; that man will never stop unleashing violence before introducing order to beleaguered souls.

Thus, he sent not a conquering King to wipe out a corrupt order and establish "peace" but someone from a long line of shepherds. His ways are not our ways.

The biblical Joseph, who eventually saved Egypt, was a shepherd. David, the greatest king ever, was another shepherd of Jesus' bloodline. The patriarch Abraham, who started it all, was a shepherd.

In Paulo Coelho's magnum opus The Alchemist, the mysterious Melchizedek and Arab sages appear to remind the protagonist, a shepherd boy, that his treasure hunt was a quest worthy of shepherds. The Divine favors shepherds and one from among them even became the King of Kings, so he was told.

The Way of the Shepherd

Shepherds lead their flock to green pastures and still waters, though a narrow and winding path, whenever necessary. The path less-trodden is a metaphor for a way of life.

Think of the denouement in the Sound of Music, of children clambering up an Alpine redoubt, and it is comforting to hope that in fiery trials, there may appear a shepherd to lead the stricken to safety.

Furthermore, the permanence of the pastoral setting is the antithesis of the human Ziggurat. The latter crumbles eventually, needing bailouts in their trillions for a "reconstruction project." It is all glitzy and expensive, needing blood for cement, bones for bricks, sweat for mortars, and tears for failing.

I would rather think of a manger, of a real menagerie with horses, mules, donkeys and — a long time back — the baby Jesus himself. At least for now. His first honored visitors were coincidentally...shepherds.

And what about Dec 25?

The year of Jesus birth has been rightly contested and there is no way he could have been born on Dec 25. The activity of the shepherds, who were informed of his birth, suggest an earlier month, preferably September. Nine months prior would have been December when the word became flesh (conceived), as the Bible puts it.

This then is the shocker: Dec 25 may have been the date of Jesus' conception. There is a growing body of research which indicate this, after traditions are detached from their dubious dogma. For a quick synoptic account, follow the shepherd's trail at Michaemas and see where that leads...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Copyright 2008@Mathew Maavak

Most of Mathew Maavak's commentaries can be read here or visit the Panoptic World homepage.

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Palm Springs Kid said:

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The True Meaning of Christmas
But there cannot be Christmas without Jesus Christ.

Too many people are missing the point in our day and age.
 
December 24, 2008 | url
Votes: +0

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