Around this time of year we are often reminded by Christian leaders that the real meaning of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christianity’s most important figure, Jesus Christ, rather than an excuse for rampant, self-centred consumerism.
The life of Jesus Christ himself was chronicled long after his death and he was accorded the status of supernatural being, the Christian God. I don’t think he ever saw himself that way. It was others long after his death who sought to deify him for their own agendas.
But whatever you think about Jesus Christ he was a deeply impressive person from all accounts. So what would the man from Galilee have to say to the world today in light of the things he believed. I think his commentary would go something like this –
“Heavens above, what is going on here? It’s a shock to have a celebration of my birthday 2000 years after my death.
“I see why you want to celebrate. You’re saying I’m God. Wow that’s scary. I never thought so myself. When I talked about “My Father in Heaven” I was speaking metaphorically, not literally. It’s been like a game of Chinese whispers about my life going on for hundreds of years until the bible was written from the last whisper and has completely distorted my life. I think Islam has got the best take on me. I’d be pleased to be remembered as a prophet in a long line of thinkers and teachers from the Middle-East.
“I can’t understand why the Pharisees are still running everything. Why do you let this happen? I saw a United Nations report last week which said just 2% of the wealthiest people own more than half the world’s wealth and even more astonishing the poorest 50% (me and my family would have been in this group) own just 1% of the worlds wealth. Whew. What was it that you didn’t understand when I said the meek shall inherit the earth? I didn’t mean the parasites should live off the poor.
“Talking of parasites I see the loan sharks are even worse than they were in my day. I chucked some of them out of my father’s temple (metaphorical father remember!) when they were fleecing worshippers. I said they had turned the temple into a den of thieves and so they had. But they are better organised thieves now and they have the full support of the political leaders. I see they don’t always need to use churches now – most even have their own flash buildings.
“I also see the rich using the same self-serving arguments they used in my day. There’s no problem being rich they say – the problem is that the poor are envious! Yeah right.
“I was amazed to see the Pharisee George Bush waging wars in my name. My message was to reject violence and look after the poor. Another message lost in translation. I didn’t say wage war on the poor to make the rich richer!
“And my home country of Palestine. I can’t believe what has happened to the land I grew up in. In my time we had many different groups living together. I was Jewish but had lots of friends from other races and religions and despite our differences we lived alongside each other.
“How embarrassing to now find my own Jewish descendents taking over the best parts of Palestine for themselves. Most of the coastline, the fisheries, the water supplies and the best land for growing food while the descendents of my Palestinian friends are being kept in huge open-air prisons called the Occupied Territories. Even Jerusalem – the big city of my day – is a divided city. Heavens it makes me angry. Break down those barriers that divide the people! Get rid of that stupid apartheid wall which separates Jews from other Palestinians. The land has always been big enough for all to live together in peace and plenty. What is it about sharing that you don’t understand?
“I see there have been multiple crimes committed in my name through the past 2000 years. Mass murder, brutal oppression, rampant greed, legalised theft. And yes, amid it all I do see good people doing their best. My empathy is with them. But I have to say that those in power have been poor students of my teachings. Some attend Christian services to praise me but spend the rest of the time forcing injustice upon injustice on those poorer and weaker. Some things never seem to change.
“I myself was born a Jewish refugee. Were I born today I’d probably be a Palestinian child in a refugee camp on the west bank of the river Jordan. Would you think as much of me now if I were living once more in your midst?”