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Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

The Historical Reason for the Season

“For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given . . . .  And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9;6)

(Click on Handle’s Messiah to enjoy the music)

A question that’s been around for some time now is: “Was Jesus born on December 25th?” The answer, according to Rabbi Jonathan Chan, is NO, Jesus was born in the Spring — “Nissan One”– in March or April, the only time of the year when shepherds would be out watching their flock at night when baby lambs are being born. It would also have been around the year 4 BC, the historical date when King Herod the Great died.  In case you are unfamiliar with the story, he was the king who ordered all the male infants two-years old and under killed after he learned from the Magi that a “king of the Jews” had been born.

(When you have 24 minutes to spare, click on the the Rabbi’s name above to view the entire compelling argument and historical, as well as astronomical and celestial evidence. He’s quite entertaining as well.)

I saw a post on Facebook a few days ago that the “Bethlehem Star” was seen back in June of 2015 for the first time in 2000 years—according to a CNN special report. The “star” is thought to be a brilliant phenomenon in the heavens created by a planetary conjunction involving Jupiter and Venus. There is also conjecture that the Star of Bethlehem could be a super nova, or a “gamma burst” as this clip demonstrates.

Well, there was such a “triple conjunction” on February 25 in the year 6 BC with the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars forming a triangle low in the western sky. This is when the “Three Kings” of the Magi saw “his star in the East” and proceeded to Bethlehem to see the newly-born child “King of the Jews” and to bring him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It apparently took them two years to reach their destination. So, we can remove the three kings from our Nativity Scene as they were not there yet. They can be put there on January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany, which commemorates the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles, as represented by the Magi. 

The Real Reason for the Season

So, why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th? And what’s the real reason for the Season? Here’s what I found at Space.com:

In ancient times, Dec.  25 was the date of the lavish Roman festival of Saturnalia. It was a time when gifts were exchanged; homes, streets and buildings were decorated; people came home for the holidays and everybody was in a happy, party mood. 

It has been said that early Christians chose the date of the Saturnalia in order to avoid attention and thus escape persecution. When the Roman emperor Constantine officially adopted Christianity in the 4th century, the date of Christmas remained Dec. 25.

The real “reason for the Season,” then, is gift-giving, and in the Christian world, in celebration of the birth of Jesus, celebrated by Handle as “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”  (from Isaiah 9;6). It is said that after Handle finished composing this masterwork, he exclaimed “I have seen the face of God.” (Click on Handle to enjoy the music)

Thanks to the Romans, we can have a “White Christmas” in December, which we could not have in March or April.  How wonderfully perfect it all worked out!

LOVE IS BORN ANEW IN OUR HEARTS

Meister Eckhart saw the true meaning of Christmas when he penned these words:

Where is he who is born King of the Jews? Now concerning this birth, mark where it befalls. I say again, as I have often said before, that this birth befalls in the soul exactly as it does in eternity, neither more nor less, for it is the same birth: this birth befalls in the ground and essence of the soul. . . . God is in all things as being, as activity, as power.” 

Here’s something I would like to share with my readers during this year’s Holiday Season. It’s from “Daily OM” and written by Madysin Taylor:

Holding the holidays in your heart throughout the year it can be wonderfully transformative. Holidays and joy are two elements of our lives that are naturally intertwined. Traditional celebrations awaken within us an ardent desire to reconnect with the people we care about and to share our abundance. During the holiday season, we feel more driven to actively practice compassion, tolerance, selflessness, and gratitude. When we feel stressed, we find peace in the company of loved ones. And, filled with warm thoughts, we endeavor to ensure that others can share in our celebrations. Yet while happiness and holidays go hand in hand, the serenity and optimism that blossom within as we act on our festive feelings need not be relegated to a few days or weeks each year. We can carry the holiday spirit within us all year long if we make an effort to embrace a celebratory frame of mind no matter what the date.

Holding the holidays in your heart can be wonderfully transformative. Changing your life can be as simple as thinking about the uplifting activities you engage in and the positive attitudes you adopt during the holiday season and then integrating them into your daily life. If you learn to always be as open to wonder as you are around the holidays, the world will seem like a more magical place, whether it is December, March, or August. While holidays represent a great opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, there is little preventing you from reaching out to the people you care about throughout the year. The patience, compassion, goodwill, and tolerance you feel while celebrating can easily become a part of your everyday experience. Likewise, you will soon discover that the generous charitable gifts you give once a year mean just as much during other months and are often needed even more.

To remind yourself of your decision to carry the holiday spirit in your heart, consider displaying some small part of your holiday décor to signify your commitment. Remember that giving, whether your gifts are tangible or of the soul, always feels good, whatever the occasion. However you prefer to celebrate the holidays, practicing the ideals of the season every day means experiencing the beauty of the holiday season all year long.

We just finished watching the Global Citizen Prize television extravaganza this Friday evening — celebrating the world’s most inspiring activists — hosted by the exuberant John Legend.  What a huge release of love and compassion for humanity and care for the planet! What a reprieve from the daily national news! This is truly the “eleventh hour” and there’s so much more to be done to save our species and the natural world. It was so good to see and to honor with gratitude those who are leading forth in this effort and the much they have already done. God’s blessings upon them each one.

I leave you to  enjoy the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s offering of an excerpt from Handle’s Messiah.

And with that, I wish you all and each one a very Happy Holiday Season, a Blessed Solstice, and a healthy New Year in 2020.

Merry Christmas and “May God bless us each one.”

Anthony

Email: tpal70@gmail.com

 

The Music of Christmas

“Silent night, holy night. All is calm. All is bright”

12/01/2012

I wish it were so in the world this Christmas. But it’s not silent, nor holy. All is not calm. Neither is it bright, except for all the artificial lighting and cheerful shopping, stressful as it is.  

In the midst of all the rush and preparations of the Season, the saving grace for me is the joyful and peaceful music of Christmas. My favorite Christmas albums are Johnny Mathis’s 50th Anniversary Christmas Celebration and A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf choir.  The Mormon Tabernacle Choir presented a fabulous program a couple of nights ago on our PBS station. For me, it’s the music that carries forward the light of hope and love into the world at Christmas time.

Here’s an hour-long video of the St Olaf choir’s Christmas concert in Norway for your enjoyment.  I just love seeing our youth sing with such love for their beautiful heavenly music. Bonnie and I wish you all and each one a silent, holy, calm and bright Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Transcending The Christmas Myth

My Chorale PicMany of our cultural holidays are historically based on ancient mythology. Mythology itself is largely based on myths about gods and goddesses who inhabited ancient skies. In those days, deities were brought down to earth and given human incarnations as sons and daughters of gods and goddesses.

The Greeks had hundreds of deities, one for every human and earthly activity, from Apollo the Olympian God of the sun, light, knowledge, music, healing and the arts, to Zeus the very King of Heaven and god of the sky, clouds, thunder, and lightning. They had female deities as well, such as Hera, Queen of Heaven and goddess of the air and starry constellations, and Artemis, Olympian Goddess of virgins and young women, of the moon, nature, hunt and the wild animals. They had Astriaos, Titan god of stars and planets, and the art of astrology.

There was Aphrodite, “Goddess of beauty, love, desire, and pleasure. Although married to Hephaestus, she had many lovers, most notably Ares, Adonis, and Anchises. . . . Her Roman counterpart is Venus.” (Wikipedia)

There was Athena, “Goddess of reason, wisdom, intelligence, skill, peace, warfare, battle strategy, and handicrafts. According to most traditions, she was born from Zeus’s forehead, fully formed and armored. . . .  She is a special patron of heroes such as Odysseus. . . .  Her Roman counterpart is Minerva.” (Wikipedia)

Then there was Ares, “God of war, bloodshed, and violence. The son of  Zeus and Hera, he was depicted as a beardless youth, either nude with a helmet and spear or sword, or as an armed warrior. Homer portrays him as moody and unreliable, and he generally represents the chaos of war in contrast to Athena, a goddess of military strategy and skill. . . .  His Roman counterpart Mars by contrast was regarded as the dignified ancestor of the Roman people.” (Wikipedia)

They had many female deities, such as Demeter, “Goddess of grain, agriculture, harvest, growth, and nourishment. Demeter is a daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and a sister of Zeus, by whom she bore Persephone. Demeter is one of the main deities of the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which her power over the life cycle of plants symbolizes the passage of the human soul through life and into the afterlife. . . .  Her symbols are the cornucopia, wheat-ears, the winged serpent, and the lotus staff. . . .  Her Roman counterpart is Ceres.” (Wikipedia)

Some of these died and rose from the grave.

Dying-and-Rising Gods

Amazing what one can find on the internet. If you look up “dying-and-rising gods,” for example, you’ll come upon this on Wikipedia:

Examples of gods who die and later return to life are most often cited from the religions of the Ancient Near East, and traditions influenced by them including Biblical and Greco-Roman mythology and by extension Christianity. The concept of dying-and-rising god was first proposed in comparative mythology by James Frazer‘s seminal The Golden Bough. Frazer associated the motif with fertility rites surrounding the yearly cycle of vegetation. Frazer cited the examples of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Attis, Dionysus and Jesus Christ.[6]

Gods Born to Virgins on December 25 Before Jesus Christ

If you Google “Gods born to virgins” you’ll come upon this very interesting article, from which I will excerpt a few paragraphs:

There are common themes in ancient religion that make one wonder if Christianity was not the one exception to the rule that societies tend to adopt beliefs, stories, and traditions from one another. True, it’s not always clear whether common themes are a testament to the human exchange of ideas or to the universal imagination of early human thought (parallels may exist between religions on entirely different continents, for example, but that does not necessarily mean one influenced another).But what is clear is where certain ideas in human history did not originate.

Long before Yahweh and Jesus Christ, many religions had gods who were born in strange, miraculous ways, at times to virgins, who came to earth, and (though these are not the focus of this article) performed miracles, taught about judgement and the afterlife, were killed, reborn, and ascended into heaven. True, these stories are different from those of Christ, but the common archetypes in cultures in close proximity to Palestine suggest pagan influences on the biblical story of Christ’s birth.

December 25 was an important birthday for many human gods.

Most Christians understand Christ was not actually born on this date (biblical scholars believe he was born in the spring, because the Bible mentions shepherds in the fields at the time of his birth).

The idea that Christ was born on December 25 doesn’t appear in the historical record until the fourth century A.D.; the earliest Christian writers, such as Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, and the gospel authors, are silent on the subject. . . .

Late December, the time of the winter solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year), was full of pagan European celebrations. The Roman Empire declared December 25 a holiday to celebrate the birth of their adopted Syrian god Sol Invictus in 274 A.D. Some 50 years later, Roman Emperor Constantine officially adopted December 25 as the day for celebrating Christ’s birth.

Before 1,000 B.C. we have the following gods or demigods born on December 25: Horus, Osiris, and Attis. Before 200 B.C. we have Mithra, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, and others (see All About Adam and Eve, by Richard Gillooly). Some of these characters, you will see below, were also born to virgins. . . .

Interestingly, in ancient mythology, many gods are born to women with names derived from “Ma,” meaning mother: Myrrha in Syrian myth, Maia in Greek myth, Maya in Hindu, Mary in Hebrew. . . .

The Magi’s star isn’t unique to Christmas – nor is the Magi.

Stars, meteors, and heavenly lights allegedly signaled the birth of many man-gods, including Christ, Yu, Lao-tzu, various Roman Caesars, and Buddha (see Gillooly). This parallels the strange and fantastic events that surround the births of purely mythological figures, such as Osiris in Syria, Trinity in Egypt, and Mithra in Persia. But nothing was more spectacular than virgin birth. . . .

Virgin birth, and a reverence and obsession with virginity, was a common theme in ancient religions before the time of Christ and near where Christianity originated (see “The Ancient Beginnings of the Virgin Birth Myth,” by Keyser). It marked the child as special, often divine.

Two thousand years before Christ, the virgin Egyptian queen Mut-em-ua gave birth to Pharaoh Amenkept III. Mut-em-ua had been told she was with child by the god Taht, and the god Kneph impregnated her by holding a cross, the symbol of life, to her mouth. Amenkept’s birth was celebrated by the gods and by three kings, who offered him gifts.

Ra, the Egyptian sun god, was supposedly born of a virgin, Net. Horus was the son of the virgin mother Isis. In Egypt, and in other places such as Assyria, Greece, Cyprus, and Carthage, a mythological virgin mother and her child was often a popular subject of art and sculpture.

Attis, a Phrygian-Greek vegetation god, was born of the virgin Nana. By one tradition, Dionysus, a Greek character half god and half human, was the son of Zeus, born to the virgin Persephone.

Persephone also supposedly birthed Jason, a character with no father, human or divine. Perseus was born to a mortal woman named Danae, and fathered by Zeus. Zeus also slept with a mortal woman (though daughter of a nymph) named Io, and they had a son and a daughter. He slept with the mortal Leda, who gave birth (hatched, actually) Helen of Troy and other offspring.

Even Plato in Greece was said by some to have been born to a virgin, Perictione, and fathered by the god Apollo, who gave warning to Ariston, Perictione’s husband-to-be.

Some followers of Buddha Gautama decided he was born to the virgin Maya by divine decree. Genghis Khan was supposedly born to a virgin seeded by a great miraculous light. The founder of the Chinese Empire, Fo-Hi, was born after a woman (not necessarily a virgin) ate a flower or red fruit. The river Ho (Korea) gave birth to a son when seeded by the sun. Krishna was born to the virgin Devaka. In Rome, Mercury was born to the virgin Maia, Romulus to the virgin Rhea Sylvia (see “An Old Story,” Chapman Cohen).

The Persian god Mithra was made the “Protector of the Empire” by the Romans in 307 AD, right before Christianity was declared the official religion. Some versions of Mithra’s story, predating Christianity, make him the son of a human virgin. His birth, on December 25, was seen by shepherds and Magi, who brought gifts to a cave, the place of his birth (see Godless, by former pastor Dan Barker).

Well, what do you think? Is the Christmas story just that, a mythical story, perhaps composed after the life of Jesus to explain and support his messianic divinity?

In closing this post, however, allow me this transcending perspective. We hear a lot about keeping Christ in Christmas during these days of commercialized everything. Personally, I believe that Christ was never omitted from Christmas, commercialism notwithstanding.  The Christ is Love, as we each one are in true identity.  Love is born and reborn every year when we celebrate its birth through the man Jesus two-thousand years ago. Love is very much in our hearts and in expression this time of year. I feel it strongly as we spend time with our children and grandchildren this week. I feel it when friends near and far wish me and others a “Merry Christmas,” or a “Happy Holidays.” I don’t think that Jesus would feel slighted by such a seasonal greeting as “Happy Holidays” if he were around. The Love is there so the Christ is there.  So, I wish you each one a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays, a Happy Hanukkah if you’re Jewish, and a Happy Solstice if you’re into celebrating the goddess Gaia’s seasons of the year . . . and while I’m at it, Have a Happy New Year!    ~Anthony Palombo

Read my HealthLight Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com where you’ll find many excellent articles. The current feature is on “Artic Ruby Oil and Fat Reduction.”

 

Have an “Inner Christmas”

                                       

A friend posted this video link on Facebook and it is such a beautiful and meaningful movie I simply have to share it with my blog readers. Enjoy!

Wishing you each one a deep and renewing “Inner Christmas” this year!

(Video link:  http://www.theinnerchristmasmovie.com/ )

May your days be merry and bright!  May your Christmas Day be quiet.

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