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By Dan Carlson
Columnist Prairie Ponderings 

Merry Christmas

 

December 23, 2020 | View PDF

As the world gets more complex, many question the relevance of Jesus Christ to our world.

After all, he was born more than 2,000 years ago, they point out. His world and life experiences were nothing like ours. Really?

Jesus was born into a world of conflicting ideologies. For 300 years, the Holy Land had been dominated by Greek culture, one that emphasized philosophy, education and the arts.

In 140 B.C. the Jews rebelled against the Greeks in the famous Maccabean Revolt, which established the Hasmonean Dynasty and a Jewish independent homeland in what is now Israel. But as decades passed, bickering and infighting between religious factions became so partisan and unmanageable that the Romans took advantage, took over, and set up a Roman client state. The Jews would not again see an independent nation of their own until Israel’s founding in 1948.

After about 60 years of Roman rule, the Holy Land was in a region of relative calm in terms of international relations. The empire stretched across much of Europe, western Asia, the Middle East and North Africa – a period known as Pax Romana, the Roman Peace. New technology and innovation flourished, especially in areas of architecture, infrastructure and military weaponry.

A system of roads was constructed to facilitate faster distribution of trade goods and military assets, roads that early Christians would later use to take the Gospel to the farthest reaches of the empire. Those fortunate to be born into the Roman establishment enjoyed incredible prosperity and standards of living others at the time could only dream of.

But at the height of economic and military power, Roman culture fell into decadence. Sexual immorality, children born out of wedlock, abortion and infanticide, political corruption and racism were rampant. Rome became a society of two classes – the rich elite, and everyone else. The ruling elite devised ways to occupy the masses with government handouts and entertainments, while using horrific punishments to crush any who opposed the establishment. Any of this sound familiar?

That’s the world Jesus came into with a radical new message – the Gospel (good news). He taught the established orders of religion, in which access to God was only possible through oracles, priests and gatekeepers, was wrong. He taught about a loving God inviting us to live as His children, not a vengeful entity who needed to be appeased.

In a nutshell, that’s why they killed him. After all, tyrannical oppressors in Roman uniforms and priestly robes couldn’t tolerate the idea of individuals having direct, personal access to an Authority higher than they were.

Faithful Jews were waiting for a messiah they hoped would lead a military rebellion against Rome. Instead they received a more powerful savior who taught the way to change the world was to change hearts one at a time, one on one, by showing the kind of love God showed us through Jesus to those around us – one person at a time. This idea ultimately did conquer Rome.

Therein lies my Christmas message. If you don’t like the way life is going, or the things are in the world, a choice is offered. Fight for change using the systems of the world, which will lead to worldly outcomes, or surrender to God and let Him make the world better through you by ministering to people around you – your family, your coworkers, your community.

“What difference can one person make?” you ask. Look at the lights on a Christmas tree. One bulb alone may not look like much. But many bulbs of various colors and sizes, combining the light that shines within them, light made possible by one power source, can illuminate a whole room and bring joy to all who look upon them. So it is with us.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” He came to put His light in those who believe in Him. This week, let His light shine on others through you. Become one with the light of the world by showing God’s love and kindness to others. Karen and I wish you a Merry Christmas.

 

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