By Jeff Westover
Pope Benedict has released a new book in a series about Jesus Christ. The new book is called Jesus of Nazareth -- The Infancy Narratives
. The media has given it a lot of attention because in this first volume the Pope allegedly debunks several Christmas myths:
1. Christ wasn't born on Christmas.
The Pope does not discuss December the 25th but rather the year of Christ's birth, saying that it was earlier than supposed due to an error in calculation by an early church monk.
2. No animals were present at the Nativity
. Pope Benedict says that just because Christ was born in a stable and placed in a manger there is no proof of animals being present at his birth.
3. Angels didn't actually sing
. The Pope's new book points out that while angelic visitors were present they were not singing.
And for these simple declarations the media labels the Pope something of a Grinch -- a Christmas killjoy
Some media accuses the Pope of being "up to something". They suggest that Pope Benedict may be ushering in a new era of Christmas celebration
As usual, when it comes to Christmas -- and in this context, Pope Benedict -- the media has it completely wrong.
First of all, let's look at the "myths" the Pope's new book exposes.
The date of Christ's birth has always been debated. While the exact date can never be ascertained it is a matter of historical record that Christ wasn't born on December 25th and he wasn't born exactly in the year 0 B.C. The records of the Catholic Church have long established that fact and it is not a new revelation.
Animals being present at Christ's birth has likewise never been a "fact". No where in the scriptures is it mentioned. But the fact that Christ was born in a stable and placed in a manger are details included in scripture not to support the presence of animals but to demonstrate the lowliness of Christ's birth. Animals in popular culture such as song and in artist renderings of the Nativity are creative license elements...not "myths".
Singing angels are a different matter altogether and if the media were doing their job they would completely investigate to report instead of opining. Luke tells us that an angel accompanied by a "multitude of the heavenly host":
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men".
That is an English translation. Look at the original text of Luke and the word "saying" becomes "singing".
I mean no disrespect to the Pope. Or to the media (well, maybe against them, I do). But let's get the facts straight.
The point of the Pope's book -- which I have not yet read because it is not available -- is that the birth of Christ changed the world. Details like animals, dates and singing angels are just not that important. This is the message from the pontiff. But because it comes from "The Pope" the media spins it as some kind of attack from within on Christmas.
Christmas is very much a Biblical thing. Isaiah heralded the birth of Christ centuries before Christ was born. We have long held the belief here that Christmas pre-dates the so-called pagan traditions
from which the modern Christmas has so many parallels.
The cynical media celebrates inconsistencies in the recorded history of Christmas. They ridicule the beliefs of Christianity in the romantic depictions of Christ's birth. They argue everything from Christ's divinity to whether or not he was married, gay or black and white.
They miss the point entirely.
And that is what Pope Benedict is saying.
I wonder why it is that Christians around the world can get this but the media cannot. I wonder why it is that the Pope can spell it out for them but they still fail to grasp it. Even Dr. Seuss explains it in very child-like form and still the media paints Christmas as something it is not.
It was true in the time of Christ. And it remains true now. Christmas will forever suffer misinterpretation.
The reasons why are yours alone to ponder.