Thursday, January 13, 2011

The dark side of Christmas

So I just completed reading this interesting small book called "A Not-So-Silent Night" that talks about the dark side of Christmas.  It is the unheard story of Christmas and why it matters by Verlyn D. Verbrugge.

Verlyn analysis the period between Mary's conception and the Magi's visit - which is usually reflected in Christmas pageants.  He suggests that the real reason Jesus was born was to die and this instigated a war in the heavens that had various earthly impacts. He also explores the cultural attitudes and responses at that time to the news of a Messiah, the King of the Jews.

The chapter that captivated me and got me thinking was chapter 4 - "Mary's Shame".  The first century was  sharply inclined to what we call today an "honor-shame culture" which was no different from the days of the Old Testament.  Having a child out of wedlock is still considered a shameful thing in many cultures around the world although it has become an acceptable way of life in western culture.  Societies have developed various tools to discourage or at least mitigate such possibilities. Some tools are extreme such as stoning to death - others are painful but not fatal - like banishment from the home.  All in all it is the girl who usually got/ or gets the raw end - as a single mother, a pariah in the community, a symbol of shame to the family and many times designated to the low-economic bracket due to unplanned costs.

Anyway, having this background, Mary accepted to be impregnated with the seed of Jesus as a virgin. She probably figured that everyone would understand and be amazed that she was carrying the Messiah that all Jews were anticipating.  But this was not so.  She was treated as a social outcast and Joseph had to come to her rescue after the angel had persuaded him that Mary's story was true.

So what is interesting to me are the circumstances orchestrated by God - who is responsible for this dark-sided Christmas story.  He got an innocent girl pregnant out of wedlock and then has the fiance shack-in with her before they were married. Was God thinking/working outside the box - so to speak? What does this say about His ways?  Would you have believed Mary story if you were there then or would you have easily judged her because of her totally "incoherent lie" - that she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit - yeah right!

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Define Me!

Who am I? On the surface this is seems a simple question and can be answered with various nouns and adjectives. I am a beautiful and intelligent woman.  I am a thinker.  I am  a surgeon. I am a compassionate and caring husband. And so on. However, when we dig deeper and go to the place we rarely want to go and ask this question with our heart and mind then the answer becomes almost like a mirror to ourselves. It spells out our identity - assumed or real identity.

How do I define myself?
I suggest that the response comes from that which gives you purpose. Is it your career? Your wealth?Your social status? Your children? Your husband or wife? Your religious faith?  Don't answer this question until you ask yourself - What or Who in your life if removed permanently or temporarily would leave you "define-less" - lacking identity?

Sometimes we are not even aware of what or who we allow to define us until that thing or person is taken away and we are left scrambling to make sense of who we really are.  We wonder if we truly believe the definition bestowed on us whether with assistance from others or just by ourselves - in our secret place.

I came across a sign some years ago that said "Don't take life too seriously, it is just a temporary situation".  Casting Crowns - the contemporary Christian rock band - in their song"Who am I?" give the same temporal view in the chorus - "... I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind..." Casting Crowns - Who Am I?

Very true... life as we know it is temporal... but this is the only "situation", the only "flower", "wave", "vapor" we will have so we take it so seriously that at a certain point in our lives we need to know who we are, know this "situation", "flower", because it somehow gives us meaning, makes us relevant - or so we want to believe.

It is a lonely place to be - when that which gives you meaning is taken or lost - at least until you re-define yourself and spell out a new identity, a new self - assumed or authentic (real) self.

Related Links:
Dr Phil - Self Matters
Todd Monger - Defining Self in a World of Errors
Marilynn B. Brewer - Abstract - The Social Self: On Being the Same and different at the Same Time