The words the true meaning of Christmas crop up quite a lot at this time of year. Often they’re heard when someone is bemoaning the rampant commercialism and consumerism that accompanies the run up to Christmas. And then again you hear them when someone is complaining that the Christmas promotions in the shops in the high street and the advertisements on television appear to start earlier and earlier each year. You hear them when someone takes exception to the over-the-top Christmas decorations which some people put up outside their homes.
On the other hand, in an almost opposite case, you will hear them spoken when we hear of a local council or business “cancelling” the Christmas party or refusing to display Christmas decorations or preferring instead a “non-religious” alternative because the celebration of such an overtly Christian festival might offend people of another faith, or none. Continue reading “The True Meaning of Christmas”
My father was a wandering Aramean (Deuteronomy 26.5). These words are a reference to Jacob. His grandfather Abraham lived a nomadic lifestyle. He drove sheep and wandered from place to place, setting up camp where he found good pasture. Sometimes he stayed for a short time and sometimes he remained for weeks, months or even years. But nowhere did he settle long enough to call it home. His son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (who was renamed Israel) lived this same nomadic lifestyle. In this way they accumulated great wealth but called nowhere home.
But they travelled always with a promise. God had made a covenant with Abraham in which he promised that Abraham would be the father of nations (it’s what his name means) and that God would provide him with a homeland and that his descendants would become a people beyond counting and a blessing to the world. Continue reading “My Father was a Wandering Aramean”
The fact that you’re reading this suggests that the “Rapture” did not take place as scheduled on 21st May. But then, I don’t suppose that you thought it would. Neither did I.
The whole idea of the rapture grows out of a particular way of reading the bible. The idea that scripture can be read in such a way as to make it possible to predict the date of the Second Coming requires an especially literal understanding of the text.
Such an understanding of scripture is remarkably modern. Certainly those who wrote the books of the bible would be surprised, and perhaps a little amused, that people would try to make sense of the stories in this way. Of course, believing that things are either literally true or untrue is very modern way of looking at things. And today we are not used to handling texts that give what look to us like factual accounts of events as if there might be a different way of understanding them. We may still like metaphors as a literary device in a piece of descriptive writing or in a poem but we are not at all comfortable with an extended text which we need to understand metaphorically. And so we fall into the trap of interpreting the bible as if its reliability were simply a case of black or white. Continue reading “In Raptures”