Stream Splashes: December 15-21 in Review

By The Stream Published on December 22, 2019

Every week, The Stream rounds up some highlights from the recent news. We call these our “splashes”: everything from insightful commentary on the week’s big events to small inspiring stories you may have missed.

 

“We’d like to report a robbery. Christians stole December 25 from the pagans!”

Here’s the case file:

December 25 could not have been Jesus’ birth date. Early Christians did not even celebrate Jesus’ birth. And certainly did not celebrate Christmas on December 25 until long after the pagans had created a December 25 festival. Christmas is the cultural appropriation of the pagan “Birth of the Unconquered Sun.” And the Persian cult of Mithras, also celebrated December 25.

But is that really what happened?

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She wasn’t the happiest person you could meet. A Christian, but one who saw this world as a progression of sins and sorrows, and nothing to smile about. I knew this old woman when I was young. She used the old Scottish line about man passing from the stench of the diaper to the stench of the grave.

She wasn’t wrong, though. Even secularish me knew the world didn’t work right, and that I wasn’t who I should be. You stink at your beginning. You stink at your end. And you stink in between. That’s basically the Christian doctrine of original sin. A low, low view of man and a gloomy view of human life.

And yet part of Christmas’s Good News. No original sin, no Jesus in the manger. And a world exactly as bad as that sour old Christian described.

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Nothing beats the view out the upstairs window here where I live, following a snowfall. It’s even better during the morning twilight hours, just before the sun rises. December is the best time, with our condo association’s Christmas decorations (“Candy Cane Lane”) lining the grassy island. More snow is falling as I write.

Christmas is the season for “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” isn’t it? Except there’s a problem with that.

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Matthew records a bare bones account of “wise men from the East.” They see a star and journey to Jerusalem, winding up in Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn Jesus Christ.

You may not realize, but most Biblical scholars regard the story of the three wise men coming to Bethlehem to be untrue. No more than a fanciful tale concocted by early Christians to make Jesus’ birth extra special.

Are the Biblical wise men no more real than Gandalf, Merlin and Dumbledore — or did they really exist?

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