05- THE 25TH OF DECEMBER?

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Jesus claims not to know when he was born

Jesus never had a birthday cake.

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RACHEL Emisoras Latinas is on the air again with Jesus Christ, here in Bethlehem, where thousands of pilgrims and tourists are flooding the streets and the markets. They’re busy buying stars, wreathes, lights, candies, figures for the manger, camels made of caramel, gifts, gifts and more gifts …

JESUS What’s the reason for so much festivity, Rachel?

RACHEL Well, the feast of the Nativity is coming soon.

JESUS What nativity?

RACHEL Yours, of course. What other one could it be?

JESUS What do you mean, mine? What are you talking about?

RACHEL Don’t play dumb… Excuse me, Jesus, I didn’t mean that, but only …

JESUS Really, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

RACHEL About December 25th, the Nativity, the anniversary of your birth. You’ve already told us that you weren’t born here in Bethlehem, but don’t tell me now that you weren’t born on December 25th.

JESUS Well, I will tell you that I wasn’t born on the 25th of December, Rachel.

RACHEL How’s that? Jesus Christ wasn’t born on Christmas?

JESUS No.

RACHEL Friends, the person we’re interviewing continues to come up with surprises… And so, if it wasn’t December 25th, when was it? Tell us the date of your birth.

JESUS Well, … The truth is I don’t know. I have no idea.

RACHEL Your parents didn’t tell you?

JESUS No, because at that time nobody remembered those dates or celebrated them.

RACHEL What about the year you were born?

JESUS Even less do I remember that. Nobody knew how old they were in those days.

RACHEL But … don’t they say that you set out to preach when you were thirty years old?

JESUS They may well say that, but I personally don’t know how old I was when I went down to the river to be baptized by the prophet John.

RACHEL Incredible! … So, with your permission, Emisoras Latinas is going to investigate what might be the origin of the tradition of celebrating Christmas. Excuse me one moment. … By cell phone I’m going to contact Nivio Alberto Lopez, a specialist in the ancient world…. Can you hear me, Don Nivio?

NIVIO Perfectly, Rachel. I’ve been listening to your interview. By all means, give a warm greeting to Jesus Christ for me.

RACHEL I’ll do that. Now, please explain to us why the birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25th.

NIVIO That date was originally a pagan feast.

RACHEL Pagan?

NIVIO Yes. You see, Rachel, in the northern countries during December the nights are very long. During the hardest part of winter in the times of the Roman empire, the people used to celebrate big feasts in honor of the sun, especially when the sun was beginning to overcome the darkness again and the days were becoming longer.

RACHEL And what does that have to do with Jesus Christ?

NIVIO Well, the first Christians saw Jesus Christ as a new Sun who brightened and warmed the world with his message of love and justice. So it was that some 300 years after the time of Jesus, a Pope named Liberius took advantage of those pagan feasts and declared that the principal day for celebrating them, the 25th of December, was really the birthday of Jesus Christ. That’s how the tradition began, but the date itself is arbitrary. It was decided by the Pope in Rome.

RACHEL Thank you very much, Don Nivio. We return now to Jesus Christ…. So that is to say, you don’t know exactly when you were born or how old you were at your baptism?

JESUS No.

RACHEL And don’t you think it’s a little … how to say it? … a little strange not knowing when you came into this world?

JESUS To the contrary. It seems to me quite fitting. That way, you can celebrate every day as if it were your first. And you’ll always feel young!

RACHEL So to conclude you weren’t born in Bethlehem, and you weren’t born on December 25th. What remains, then, of Christmas?

JESUS The Sun remains, Rachel, that Sun which God makes to rise over us every day of the year.

RACHEL So, friends, with the bells of Bethlehem sounding behind me, this is Rachel Perez, reporting for Emisoras Latinas.

MUSIC.

ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.

*More information about this polemical topic…*

Without a date of birth
The date of Jesus’ birth is not known, and there is no way of knowing it with precision. The reference that Luke’s gospel makes to a census ordered by Rome brings us close to the year when it happened, but the exact month and day will forever remain unknown. Everything would seem to indicate that Jesus was born in the years immediately prior to the definitive annexation of Palestine to the Roman Empire, or very soon thereafter. Often the date 4 “B.C.” is suggested. Rome ordered the census to be taken in Palestine around that time, though it is not known with certainty when exactly it took place or how long it lasted.

“It’s better not to know one’s age”

It may seem strange that Jesus would not know how old he was. However, the lack of such knowledge is very common in rural areas, even in recent times. The extraordinary text “The Papalagi” is a collection of the discourses given the Samoan chief Tuiavii of Tiavea to his Polynesian people, after a journey he made to Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.   In one of the discourses Tuiavii gives the following reflection on the advantages of not knowing one’s age:

Among the Papalagi (white people) not only the men, but also the women and even the small children, all know exactly how many times the sun and the moon have risen since the day that they saw the great light for the first time. This is so important in their lives that they celebrate the day at regular intervals with flowers and parties. Very often I have seen how people felt embarrassed for me, because they would ask me my age and I would begin to laugh since I didn’t know. “But you have to know how old you are.” So I just remained silent and thought: it’s better for me not to know that. “How old are you?” means: how many moons have you been alive? Analyzing and counting in this way is full of dangers, because that way you find out how many moons people are accustomed to live. They then keep that in mind, and when a great many moons have passed, they say: “Now I must soon die.” They become silent and sad, and in fact within a short time they in fact die.

Nivio López
Nivio López Vigil is an archeologist and an eminent illustrator of children’s books. He has a wide knowledge of the cultures of the ancient world and is passionate about the ways people celebrate Christmas. For that reason he participates in the program, giving a succinct explanation of the historical origin of this date. His book “Twenty-five 25ths of December” examines the various ways that Christmas is celebrated in twenty-five countries around the world.

Sun worship
The choice of December 25th as the date for Christmas is linked to the celebrations of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) that were common in times of the Roman Empire. This cult originally came from Syria, but was imposed by the Roman emperors on their subjects about one century before the emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the empire.
Even though it contained elements of the worship of Baal and Astarte, worship of the Sun was essentially monotheistic: the Sun god was a synthesis of the attributes of all the gods that were known and adored in the ancient world. The cult of the Unconquered Sun was quite compatible with the millenarian mystery cult of Mithra, the Lord of Light, a religion of Mede and Persian origin that was very popular in Rome in those days. Besides adoration of the Sun, the cult of Mithra also included belief in the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the dead and a future judgment; it even held celebrations in which the faithful shared bread and wine together. As a result, it fit quite well with the new Christian beliefs, which spread through the empire during a period when sun worship was quite extensive in all its territories.

From Saturday to Sunday and from Easter to Christmas
Three centuries after the time of Jesus, the emperor Constantine, who aimed to reinforce the political, religious and territorial unity of his empire, sought to harmonize all three religions: the Mithra cult, the worship of the Unconquered Sun, and Christianity. Once Constantine was “converted” to Christianity, he ordered that “the day of the Sun” (Sunday) be the weekly day of rest. Until that time the Christians, because of their Jewish origins, had recognized Saturday as a day of rest. Until that time, also, their main annual celebration was the Resurrection of Jesus, on coincided with the lunar feast day of Passover. The birth of Jesus was celebrated in only a few places, and on January 6th, the date in the Julian calendar that coincided with the winter solstice.
It was only starting in the third century that Christmas began to be celebrated on December 25th, which was the principal feast day for sun worship, the day of the Unconquered Newborn. On this day people celebrated the birth – or rebirth – of the Sun, because starting from the cold winter solstice the days became longer and gave more hours of light. In the middle of the fourth century Pope Liberius (352-366) made December 25th the definitive date for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus.

The Sun God
Sun worship existed in nearly all the cultures of antiquity because of the obviously great importance of the sun in all agricultural activities. In Egypt sun worship was central, and the pharaohs were considered sons of the Sun God. Sun worship was central also in the Inca Empire. The greatest celebration of this religion was the Feast of the Sun, the Inti Raymi (“inti” means “sun” in the Quechua language), which even now continues to be celebrated in the city of Cuzco, Peru, every 24th of June, the time of the summer solstice.

The power of the Sun
Today we find ourselves confronted by the energy crisis, which has been provoked by our irrational and accelerated use of fossil fuels (petroleum and coal). These fuels, which were stored up by Nature during millions of years, have been squandered by us in the last two centuries. And so we once again turn our eyes toward the Sun, the inexhaustible source of energy and life for humankind. We do so with the certainty that solar energy will be able to help us avoid the catastrophe which is being caused by a combination of overpopulation and excessive consumption of non-renewable energy sources.

05- THE 25TH OF DECEMBER?

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