The Birth of a Messiah (Part 1)

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

THE terms “Messiah” and “Christ” are derived respectively from the Hebrew and Greek words. They are rooted in the ancient ceremony of consecration, which bestowed special authority on a leader by anointing him with oil.

People before us expected the Messiah to be anointed with God’s spirit, with a special commission to bring them blessedness. Many have faith that the Messiah’s wisdom and justice would be so great that even the pagans would turn to God. This did not happen to Jesus. His birth was celebrated not by courtiers, but by lowly shepherds and Wise Men of foreign birth. He was a son of a carpenter, became a wandering teacher and directed his words of blessing and comfort mostly to the poor and outcast.

What do we know about the birth of Jesus? Only Matthew and Luke gave details about the birth of Jesus. Mark and John did not corroborate. Matthew and Luke simply started that Jesus was born miraculously of a virgin named Mary, and Joseph did not feel good about it at first to have a son not of his own -- all in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, who is known to have died in 4 B.C.

Luke also sets the birth at the time of a census that was taken when Quirinius was the Roman governor in Syria. Quirinius took office in A.D. 6-10 years after Herod’s death. The month and day of the birth are also unknown. Various traditions have supported March 28, April 18 or 19, and May 29 – mostly because shepherds watching their flocks in the fields suggests spring.

In time, Jesus’ birth seems to have become linked with the winter’s solstice: December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian. First included in a Roman liturgical calendar for the year 336, December 25 was accepted in both eastern and western churches by the end of that century. It is good to know that we know why we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is not necessarily December. Our churches simply agreed on December 25 and our businessmen simply liked the idea.

Who were the wise men (magi)? A magus was originally a member of a caste of people dwelling to the east of Holy Land who led a life of self-denial, studied astrology, and interpreted dreams. By Jesus’ time, the term was applied to any wise man or magician seeking the truth about God and the universe. Tradition is also wise by giving them names: Caspar (Gaspar), Melchior, and Balthasar. According to Matthew, their gifts are gold, frankincense, and myrrh which were thought by some medieval interpreters to symbolize Jesus’ kingship, divinity, and ultimate death as a man.

How about the star of Bethlehem? It is believed that God manifests his will through nature. Some astrologers and astronomers speculate that it could have been a nova, or exploding star, such as the one that was observed in the Southern Hemisphere in 1987. Chinese astronomers recorded a nova in the year 5 B.C. Johannes Kepler, the renowned German astronomer, calculated that a highly visible convergence of the planets Saturn and Jupiter, such as the one he observed in 1603, would have also occurred in 6 or 7 B.C. Still others have demonstrated that Halley’s Comet would have been visible over Palestine in 12 B.C.

Conclusive evidence that would link any of these astronomical phenomenon to the birth of Jesus is lacking, especially since Matthew describes a moving star that “came to rest over the place where the child was.” This would make it interesting because the alien theorists would advance the idea that it was not a star but a huge spacecraft monitoring the birth of an alien.

Those who descended to the shepherds in the fields to announce the birth of the child were extra terrestrials riding in their mini-hover crafts. The birth of our Messiah is full of surprises. It is up for us to take side and decide. Are we for faith, tradition, religion, magic, or science fiction?

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 10, 2013.


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