A Christmas mystery
ADON TAFT, Guest columnist"I Love a Mystery" was a popular radio drama series in the early 1940s that spawned a couple of movies by the same name and has been emulated since by half a dozen television shows. Almost half of all fiction books sold today are of the mystery genre, twice as many as science fiction books which rank second in popularity.
Published: December 24, 2012
Published: December 24, 2012
Since it seems almost everyone loves a mystery, it should be no surprise that this holiday season, centered on perhaps the most intriguing mystery of all time, is the most popular celebration in the western world. For some, the mystery is yet to be solved. Even for many who believe the solution already has been revealed, some questions remain to ponder.
The first significant thing to notice about this happening is that it is so important in history that all time is measured on the basis of whether any event took place before or after that first Christmas – B.C. (before Christ) or A.D. (after the Lord appeared on earth).
It still is something of a mystery as to exactly when the first Christmas – the birth of the baby Jesus – occurred. We know within a year or two that it was 2,012 years ago. Because of the changes over the years in calendars and the methods used to calculate the yearly cycle, some uncertainty remains.
We know for sure it did not take place on Dec. 25th. Because of the evidence provided by history and the culture of the day, Biblical sleuths say the birth of Jesus probably was in March or April based on where the shepherds would have taken their flocks at that time of year.
In addition, there is no record of the early believers celebrating the coming of the Messiah on that December date until Constantine, the first Christian emperor reigning in the Roman empire during the early years of the Fourth Century, A.D., seeking to unite the conquered populations, designated the date when pagans recognized the sun as a god also to be the day to celebrate the birthday of the one Christians worshiped as "the Son of righteousness."
Clues to what was going to happen on what now is called Christmas as described in the Bible, considered by many to be the greatest book ever written, were scattered over the centuries leading up to that momentous night in a Bethlehem stable. Few who were present realized the full meaning of what was occurring and the everlasting consequences that came wrapped in ordinary swaddling clothes.
Hints appeared at least as early as 2500 B.C., as recorded in Genesis 3:15 (chapter three and verse 15 near the beginning of the Bible), that something big was to happen many years later. In turn, that event would set the stage for another just as important development – the end of the world as we know it! Biblical experts looking at the evidence say that passage, connected with Romans 16:20 more than 2,500 years later, was a tip that an unusual man born by a descendent of Eve, the first woman, would overcome Satan .
That clue wouldn't be very helpful without later tidbits of information that serious Biblical sleuths from around the world have found (in such places as Genesis 12:3, 18:18 ,49:10; Psalm 132:11; Jeremiah 23:5,6; 33:15,16) indicating that this special person also would be a descendent of Abraham, Judah and David .
While those descriptions could fit anyone of perhaps thousands of people, the clinchers, say the experts, came with these specific identifying circumstances: he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), as the Son of God (Psalm 2:7)!
And there's more. Predictions as early as at least 700 B.C. suggested that this special person, whose very name means "the one who will save his people," would heal the blind, deaf and lame (Isaiah 35:4-6) and be killed and buried by those who rejected his teaching.
That might seem contradictory to the idea that he would triumph over the Devil but there were prophesies (in Isaiah 25:8 and elsewhere) that he then would be resurrected, ascend to heaven, return at some date, destroy Satan and those who do his bidding, and then reign forever with those who trust Him in a peaceful, wonderful world unlike anything mankind ever has known.
Most of those predictions began to be fulfilled by God himself, Christians believe, when on Christmas Day he took the form of a man to enter this world as one of us – born of a woman. Then He sacrificed His own human life to save from the consequences of their wrong doings all those who recognize who He is and what He did for them. How Jesus the Christ fits that bill is a mystery that for true believers is pretty much solved in the part of the Bible called the New Testament.
Still, there are questions for which even the strongest believer struggles to find satisfactory answers. How could this God-man who has accomplished all that and more, a sovereign God of love, allow things like the Newtown massacre to occur? Does the solution further cloud the mystery of His sovereignty and man's free will, one of the mainstays of the Christian faith?
You can pick up a Bible and check out all the clues. Maybe you'll find the solution to every one of the Christmas mysteries.
Adon Taft is a retired reporter for The Miami Herald who lives in Brooksville. The last decade of his 48 years with the Herald, he wrote about Social Security and other issues involving the elderly population. He also taught social studies at Miami Dade Community College. He can be contacted at email@example.com.