December 11, 2000
volume 11, no. 258
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW for Monday, December 11, 2000
The Mystery of the Word made flesh vanquishes all myths
Advent is a wonderful time of year. With the coming of the cold of winter there's a warmth, a sign of hope. A time when we are called to consider, to recollect the greatest gift given to mankind ever. The coming of the Son of God as a man. Not for His sake, but ours. But Christians aren't alone in this world. Recently I spoke with a person who had been raised a Christian but had decided to become a pagan, or neo-pagan. They thought it ludicrous that we should presume that Jesus is God, or that He is God alone. Now, for many of them, I think, it's a part of growing up, rebelling a bit from their parents. They think it's 'cool', it's different, exotic, mystic. They think they've found something great. But for many, the trap has been baited and sprung. Do they consider what, or who, they follow?
I wrote earlier that many of the pagan religions were based off of their own society. The gods and goddess' of ancient Greece and Rome were an extension of Greek and Roman society, complete with a king and queen of the gods. But if we consider who they were and what they did, were they worthy of belief? Of devotion?
Consider the various myths we recall about the Greek gods! Zeus was notorious in changing forms and having relations with mortal women, Hercules was one offspring of such an encounter. The vanity of Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite brought about the Trojan War, where untold thousands died in the games the gods played with men's lives. Even Odysseus's entire crew was killed because of an affront to Poseidon. What would we think of a god who killed our friends and co-workers because of a sin 'we' committed? The gods of Greece and Rome cared little for mankind. In fact, according to one legend, a god who did have compassion was punished by Zeus for bringing fire to mankind. Prometheus was bound to a rock to suffer torment for an eternity for this 'affront'.
But as I said, these gods and goddess' were merely extensions of their society. The kings of Greece and the Emperors of Rome cared little for their subjects. As long as they paid their taxes, didn't cause trouble, etc, they were left alone. Sure, they may give them a bit of something to keep them happy, but overall, it was for their benefit that these things were given, not for the people as a whole.
But we had other gods and goddess'. In Norse mythology, the gods promised little, if anything, to their people. They were doomed to die at Ragnarok, so they 'chose' the best warriors to go to Valhalla, were they fought and died all day just to be brought back the next time to do it over again. This was their idea of Heaven? To form an army of the dead doomed to die and go into oblivion at Ragnarok? Is there a story of Odin, Thor, Tyr, Freda, or any Norse god or goddess doing anything for mankind out of love and compassion for them? Any good done for mankind was done out of some self-centered motivation, not from concern or love of mankind.
Then there's the current favorite of the neo-pagans, the Celtic earth mother or goddess. Her concern for mankind was, again, what she could get out of it. Sure, according to legend, she gave them good weather for their crops, and abundant crops (sometimes) and what did she ask in return? Human blood! In order to maintain her good wishes, the Celts had to make human sacrifices to her. Now, if they could find a spare Roman or other enemy lying around, so much the better, but if not, then some poor slob had to be 'volunteered'. Of course, the idea of being one never occurred to them either, as we can read in the story of the raid Queen Mauve of Connaught's bitter and bloody rivalry with the Neil's of Ulster. These conflicts were not only not forbidden by the gods and goddess' of Celtic religion, they were often encouraged. For centuries, these were the only gods and goddess' they knew! Where else where they to go? To whom else could they turn? Their 'faith' was based, most often than not, on fear, not devotion, not love.
With such gods and goddess' is it any wonder that so many were glad to hear of a God that loved them and did things FOR them instead of TO them?
"So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said: 'Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God Who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'
Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead."
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, "We will hear you again about this." So Paul went out from among them. But some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them" (Acts 17:22-34).
Sure there were those who mocked Paul, just as today there are those who mock us. But for many, he brought news of hope, the good news of Christ, for those who longed for it.
Where else in the history of mankind's 'gods and goddesses' do we find another 'god' which longed for His creations? Maybe that's why so many couldn't come to belief, because whoever heard of a God Who actually 'wanted' to be a man, to live with us, suffer and laugh with us, and then die for us? To them, it made no sense.
"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn" (Luke 2:1-7).
This not the story of the birth of a king, or a god!! Athena was 'born' fully grown from the head of Zeus. Even Siddhartha (Buddhism) was born into a royal family, able to walk from the moment of his birth, and lotus blossoms grew where he stepped (according to Buddhist legend). Not a helpless, homeless babe born into poverty, whose entourage included stable animals and ignorant shepherds. A babe who was hunted by His enemies;
"Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the Child, to destroy Him.' And he rose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, 'Out of Egypt have I called My son'" (Matthew 2:13-15).
Hardly a promising beginning for a world religion. However, this is the fullness of love revealed.
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).
Mankind maybe can't, or won't, comprehend this. In our day and age, we are enamored by the thought that we are so wise as to be beyond the need of God. Without realizing it, we find ourselves reverting back to the days of the pagans with their religion of fear, despair, hopelessness. Or maybe we just think it's cool and new!
"Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Corinthians 1:20-25).
Just as in Luke's Gospel, it's the wise man who seeks God, not the man who thinks himself wise without a need for God. It's the wise man who sees, understands, and appreciates what a great and loving thing He has done for us.
While you're out picking up that special Christmas gift for that special someone, consider that no gift, regardless of how expensive, how thoughtful, or appreciated, can ever equal the gift of God's only begotten Son.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was Godů..And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Fatherů.. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him" (John 1:1;14; 3:16-17).
For past columns by Pat, see VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives
December 11, 2000
volume 11, no. 258
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW
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