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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Advent 2021 (Anticipation Of Christ’s Birth)

“To you in David’s town this day is born of David’s line the Savior who is Christ the lord and this shall be the sign.” No. 16898 Roud Folk Song

-Nahum Tate (Irish)

WHEN IT COMES TO RELIGION, perfection is anathema to us.

We were no ignoramuses as far as religion was concerned. We had good grades in Bible Knowledge at O’ Level. And, in those days, when we were a force in Dr. Kofi Frimpong’s “What Do You Know” contest, we had to read all the 39 books of the Old Testament and all the 27 books of the New Testament. We had to know that while Genesis begins the Old Testament and Malachi ends it, Matthew begins the New Testament and Revelation ends it. The first lines of the Bible (Genesis 1:1-3) “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light…” We had to know the last sentence of Malachi: Chapter 4 verse 6; “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse”. We had to know the last sentence of Revelations: Chapter 22 verse 21: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, Amen.”

But we had a good friend, Boakye Ansah, who was doing Religions and our rooms were close in Commonwealth Hall (University of Ghana – Legon). We thought he was reading Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, African Traditional Worship (including voodoo, Tigare, Kobiri…) He would bully us with such words as apostasy, Pantheon, syncretism, fundamentalism, Zoroastrianism, theosophical, druidism, illuminati, Laodiceanism, nothingarianism, huguenotism,…

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And if you are lucky to befriend Frank Appiagyei the veteran knowledgeable journalist or Kwame Awuah the veteran knowledgeable, you could get a lecture on Religion far more than an hour – even on the phone. You will learn that Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebecca had 13 children: twelve boys forming the 12 Tribes of Israel and an only daughter, Dinah; that Jacob at age 77 got enthralled to Rachel for whose hand he worked for Laban, the Aramean, for 7 years, but Laban substituted Leah for Laban and Jacob had to work another 7 years before gaining Rachel.

Those who attended church service last Sunday may have heard that we have entered a new liturgical year, “a new year of grace and of promise fulfillment”. It is the season of four weeks of preparation towards the two comings of our Lord Jesus Christ – the first being the humble coming of the Lord in Bethlehem and the second being the coming on Judgment Day. Hence the warning to be careful as we feast at Christmas for the judgment could come.

“Advent” is the name for Jesus’s “coming” and it is thus a period of devout and joyful expectation. And that despite the various “storms” in one’s life (poor treatment, rejection, failures) you are enjoined to “look up and raise your head, because your redemption is drawing nigh”.

But the question which is often asked is: Is 25th December, the date Jesus was born? The simple answer is “No”. The Bible does not say so. United Church of God thinks June 13 to 17 seems more probable date. The early Christians did not celebrate Jesus’s birth. Some scholars believe that Jesus was born between 6BC and 4BC. King Herod the great had, in attempt to kill Jesus, ordered the slaying of all male infants under the age of 2 who lived in the area around Bethlehem (the Massacre of the Innocents). Like many recorded events, Jesus’s birth is shrouded in mystery: begotten Son of God, born in a shepherd’s manger; subjected to torture and crucified at the youthful age of 33…?

The commemoration at the time of the census of Quirinius must have begun in the 2nd century. The Roman Christian historian, Sextus Julius Africanus dates Jesus’s conception to March, so that after nine months, the baby would be born in 25th December. By the 3rd century, the Roman Empire had not accepted Christianity; they were rather pagans who celebrated the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Iuvictus) on December 25th. This particular holiday marked the return of longer days after the Winter Solstice and also followed the Roman festival called the Saturnalia (which was marked by feasting and the exchange of gifts).

The date was also the birthday of the Indo-European deity called “Mithra”, a god of light and loyalty and this cult was gradually growing popular among the Roman soldiers.

It was around A.D. (Anno Domini) 336 that Emperor Constantine who had converted into Christianity made Christianity the virtual religion of the Roman Empire, and 25th December the date for the celebration. It is speculated that the political motive was to weaken the established pagan celebrations. In the Eastern Empire, the date (25th December) did not have an appeal. They rather preferred January 6th.

“Christmas” meaning the “mass of Christ” is identified with Jesus Christ – Jesus, the Khristo or Jesus the Messiah or Jesus the Anointed. We anticipate (or rather expect) a joyous celebration in spite of all our worries, frustrations and inhibitions. Santa Claus, also known as the Father of Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or simply Santa, is a legendary character originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring gifts of Christmas Eve of toys and candy to well-behaved people. Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol had a protagonist called Ebenezer Scrooge a cold hearted miser who despised Christmas. He was visited by 3 spirits: Ghost of Christmas, Past Ghost of Christmas, Present Ghost of Christmas, Yet to come Ghost of Christmas. “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice”. Will you be Ebenzer Scrooge or Santa Claus? Let us all embrace one another in our convivialities and say to the world: Hosanna to the King.

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From AfricanusOwusu-Ansah

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