More than two millennia ago, during the last time the Middle East probably has ever experienced peace, a child was born whose life in this temporal realm became the most important turning point in human history.
Of course, archeology, history, anthropology and other scientific fields have cast reasonable doubt upon many elements of the biblical Christmas story while proving others. Mistranslations of the original texts also have skewed our traditional view of Jesus’ life. Some contend Jesus was a stonemason (not a carpenter as generally believed), and was probably born at a relative’s home (not a stable) in the small city of Bethlehem sometime around 6 B.C.
Regardless of what we know about the historical Jesus, this day is about the spiritual Jesus. His life and teachings became the cornerstone of a religious movement that has survived the test of time.
Though some of what has been executed in his name through the last 2,000 years would not live up to his recorded ideals, the philosophy attributed to this ancient Jew is the beautiful ideal of how humans should live.
His life was cut short at the hands of the Roman government. He was executed in a horrific manner around the age of 33 — not so young considering most men of the time died well before 50 — for his perceived revolutionary leanings. The Roman government feared a Jewish revolt and Jesus looked like a leader who might start such an insurrection. Additionally, if the Gospel accounts in the Christian Bible are to be believed, Jesus had made enemies among Jewish leaders as well. In fact, evidence indicates Jesus was more a threat to the Jewish temple system than to the Roman government.
Still, Rome’s fears were not completely without merit. Later in the century the Roman army was sent to Jeru-salem to harshly quell a Jewish uprising. Unfortunately, any remnants of Jesus’ life, if such remnants did exist, were probably destroyed in the aftermath of the army’s offensive. Roman legions were not known for their surgical military strikes.
But followers of Jesus’ teachings kept his philosophy alive. Ironically, the religion started in his name eventually became the official faith of the nation that executed him. Christianity spread throughout the world and is easily the dominant religion in eastern New Mexico today.
Though some argue his birth occurred sometime in the spring, the Catholic Church, in an attempt to combat a popular pagan holiday many centuries ago, adopted Dec. 25 as the official birth date of the man who changed the world more profoundly than any other.
Whether his birth was April 17 (as some scholars have hypothesized based on astrological charts of the day) or Dec. 25 is irrelevant. It is his teachings we celebrate today.
So as we get caught up in the moment of the secular trappings of this holiday, please take a moment and reflect on why we celebrate the life and teachings of Jesus.