Access ancient Jewish, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Roman calendars to better understand the Bible
The two primary parameters that shape human thinking, regardless of culture, antiquity, or language, are space and time…spacetime for the physicists among us. It is difficult to understand any communication without a common understanding of these parameters. Such simple phrases as “See you tomorrow” require both parties to have a similar understanding of “tomorrow”.
The Bible records over 4,000 of history, from the earliest human settlements from Mesopotamia to Arabia to the cosmopolitan Roman Empire. It thus covers dozens of cultures, nations, and tribes, each with their own understanding of space and time. The Quran doesn’t do this, and neither do the Vedas, the Tripitaka, or any Sutra. The Bible stands alone – no other book is like it.
People follow calendars, but they also create and use them to advance their personal and political agendas.
In the absolute sense, time is dictated by the rhythms of nature as determined by the Creator. In the past it was viewed as the distance in history (as opposed to geography) between events. In that mindset, the idea of saving time was ludicrous. Time progressed at its own rate and rhythm and man could do nothing to change those realities. Ancients often wanted tasks to be quick and efficient just like moderns do, and for many of the same reasons, to maximize the duration of pleasant experiences and minimize that of unpleasant ones. However, in the ancient mind time was not like money, which could be stored. It had to be used.
Plant life forms the basis of life on earth; providing oxygen, food, shade, building materials, fabrics, and fuel. Plants also remove waste products, including carbon dioxide, and other human and animal waste. Life on earth would be impossible without plants.
Trees are the largest and often considered the most noble of the plants. Evergreen trees such as spruce, pine, and fir, seem to live through all seasons. Trees have long been symbols of the life sustaining power of God. Our reading today reminds us of their fundamental role in Creation, finding ultimate expression in the Tree of Life.
Christmas is the celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, to earth. Jesus is the Creator of all things and the source of physical life. He is the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the fountain of living water providing eternal life for those who believe.
Do you know where the first Christmas tree came from? There are many theories, some reaching as far back as Saint Boniface (born 7th century, died 5 June 754). Trees had long been important in pagan worship in Northern Europe. Donar’s (Thor’s) Oak, located in the state of Hesse, was considered sacred by many in Germany. In a challenge to the pagan deities, Boniface began to chop down the oak, and suddenly a strong wind blew it over. When Boniface was not struck dead by the Germanic gods, the people rejected them and accepted Christianity. They continued using trees in services, but rather than worshipping spirits in the trees they worshipped the One who made the trees.
Another story tells us that one evening Martin Luther was walking home through a forest in Germany. As he looked up through the trees he saw a host of twinkling stars in the dark sky. He thought about the Star of Bethlehem. As he gazed at the stars framed so beautifully by the branches of the fir trees, Luther was filled with awe. He wished that he could take that lovely scene home to his family so he cut down a small fir tree, took it inside his house, and decorated it with tiny flickering candles.
Green is associated with life and living things. The shoots and signs of growth in spring remind us of the color green. The evergreen Christmas tree speaks of life that will never end.
As you put up your Christmas tree today. read of Saint Boniface and Martin Luther. Turn out the lights and sit in the dark quietly. Light a candle and have the Scripture read. First the passage in Genesis and then John 12:44‑50. Sing softly the German Christmas carol “O Christmas Tree.” Think about the gift of God, Jesus Christ, which has made our own everlasting life possible.
O Christmas Tree
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are your branches! In beauty green will always grow Through summer sun and winter snow. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are your branches!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, You are the tree most loved! How often you give us delight In brightly shining Christmas light! O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, You are the tree most loved!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, Your beauty green will teach me That hope and love will ever be The way to joy and peace for me. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, Your beauty green will teach me.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blätter! Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit, Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit. O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blätter!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum! Du kannst mir sehr gefallen! Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut! O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum! Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum! Dein Kleid will michwas lehren: Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit Gibt Trost und Kraft zu jeder Zeit. O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum! Das soll dein Kleid mich lehren.