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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser!

Many of you will remember this famous line from “Alice in Wonderland,” written by Lewis Carroll in 1865. Poor Alice! She couldn’t figure out what was happening to her as she traveled down the rabbit hole. Everything she looked at was distorted and nearly unrecognizable.

Perhaps it’s just me, but in a similar vein, I see many of the events surrounding Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, as “curiouser and curiouser.” Faith, by its very nature, deals with what can only be described as strange and unbelievable. Looking at the various elements of faith, we must conclude that only that which is extraordinary could be associated with faith. Faith requires that we believe in those things which are outside of our normal experience. Otherwise, if what is ordinary is also central to faith, can we really call it faith?

Now, faith is not simply the choice to believe in something that is outside of that which is normal just for the sake of believing something that is classified as unbelievable. Faith requires solid reasoning in any belief in the extraordinary. For example, someone may say they believe the moon is made of cheese. Two factors are at play here: 1) What do we know? Well, we know what the consistency of cheese is, and that it is a dairy product, therefore subject to fairly rapid spoilage. We can safely assume that this ball that circles the earth in the vacuum of space is not made of cheese. We deduce this because of our understanding of what we know to be true. 2) Who makes the claim? More importantly we recognize that there is no credible evidence to support the belief that the moon is made of cheese. For example, who says it’s made of cheese? Are they believable? Based upon what? What is their character? What proof do they present?

You may be saying to yourself, “Come on, Roots! Nobody in their right mind believes the moon is made of cheese!” Okay, maybe not. So let’s go back to a time when man believed that the world was flat. (Contrary to contemporary thought, only a small number of people actually ever believed the world was flat.) Those who held to a flat earth idea had no proof to support their ill-conceived belief. On the other hand, belief that the world was round came rather easily because those who studied the “heavens,” soon witnessed natural events which allowed them to draw accurate conclusions. Case in point: eclipses, both solar and lunar. In both cases, we see a shadow gradually move across the surface of another object. The shadow reveals that the shadowing object has an arc, thus leading the observer to recognize the object to be orbital in shape.

Following this line of logic, let’s suppose there is a God. What do we know of this God? In what manner has he revealed himself? Is he believable? If so, what proof is there that makes him believable? Is this apparent proof credible? Do the claims he makes about himself and the rest of creation convincing?

Because I have limited space to address this very complex subject, I will address this further next week. So allow me to come to the point. There is indeed a God. This God has revealed himself to the world in a number of ways that are both natural and supernatural. He has also expressed a desire to have a personal relationship with you and me.

Focusing in on the miraculous of Christmas, we must first recognize that this singular, unique, historical event is fraught with that which is unbelievable, extraordinary, odd, strange, astonishing, amazing, and any other adjective associated with wonder that you care to use. First, the birth of the Christ didn’t just happen. It was foretold by the prophets of old. Second, they knew specifics about the birth of Christ. Particularly, they knew the child would be a male (Jesus) born to a virgin (Mary). They also knew what town he would be born in (Bethlehem). That there would be an attempt on his life while still a toddler (King Herod). That he and his family would be forced to leave their home and reside in Egypt for a couple of years before returning. And they knew where he would grow up (Nazareth).

These prophecies of the Christ are both ordinary and extraordinary. The ordinary is that he was born in the normal way of man. That is, he didn’t just appear as a full grown man ready to take on evil men and corrupt governments. Other ordinary aspects of his birth have to do with where he was born and spent his youth. On the other hand, the extraordinary in his birth is primarily centered on the way in which he was conceived. His mother, Mary, engaged to be married to Joseph, was a virgin. Why this is difficult for some to accept is hard for me to understand. Let me ask this question: How would you expect God to come? As a baby conceived in the normal manner? Why would that cause anyone to take notice? What would separate him from the rest of us? This is where the extraordinary enters in. If God is pure and holy, he could not be tainted by sin – a condition you and I are afflicted with through conception due to being from Adam’s line.

Such matters of faith are indeed, curiouser and curiouser! But that’s what makes them special during this time of the year when we celebrate and acknowledge the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior.

Have a Merry Christmas!

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