Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2010!

Here's wishing you, and yours, good Health, great Success, and Happiness throughout the New Year. May God bless you in your endeavors, and show His love for you every day.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Seeds Of Revolution?

" ... a people Jealous of their Liberties and who will vindicate them, if ever they should be violated."
~ Isaac Barré, MP, 6 February, 1765

In 1675/76 two major incidents occurred in North America, both stemming from what the citizenry considered their government's arrogance and lack of concern for what was happening to them. In both incidents the government, safe in their fine homes, far from the trouble, ignored complaints, calls for assistance, and the growing anger of the people. The result, in both cases, was immense embarrassment and disgrace for the government, military intervention when it was too late for negotiation, and the seeds of rebellion sown. Seeds that would take a century to germinate into full-scale war.

In New England, Plymouth Colony, the government exerted pressure to thoroughly control the Indians. This included commanding the appearance of the Wampanoag chief, Wamsutta, to appear in Plymouth. He was met by Major Winslow and an armed force, taken at gun point, and questioned. He died shortly after. Wamsutta's brother, Metacom - known to the colonists as Phillip - became chief.

Despite long-standing uneasy relations between the Indians and the colonists, such heavy-handed actions on the part of the colonial government showed an appalling lack of understanding. And the colonists would pay a bloody price. The result was 'King Phillip's War' which ended in 1676.

Family summarizes thus:
In 1675, hostilities broke out in the town of Swansea, and the war spread as far north as New Hampshire, and as far southwest as Connecticut. Not all Native People, however, sided with Philip. Most Natives who had converted to Christianity fought with the English or remained neutral. The English, however, did not always trust these converts and interned many of them in camps on outlying islands. Also, some Native communities on Cape Cod and the Islands did not participate in the war. Native soldiers fighting on the side of the colonists helped turn the tide of the war, which ended in 1676 when Philip was killed by a Wampanoag fighting with Captain Benjamin Church.

Fighting continued until 1678, when a treaty of Peace was signed at Casco Bay. For the colonists, the farmers and townspeople who suffered at the hands of the Indians due to the government's ignorance and arrogance, more was to come via the British government. Seeds were being sown.

In the Virginia colony, in the year 1676, trouble was also brewing. With high taxes, tobacco prices dropping, and special privileges given to the friends of the Royal governor, the people of the outlying areas were ready to revolt. Adding to their misery were the incessant attacks by the Indians. The Governor, and his Elite friends of the Virginia Tidewater, refused to respond to those attacks in any meaningful way. The citizenry took things into their own hands, sending two punitive expeditions against the Indians. These successful expeditions were headed by Nathaniel Bacon, a planter of the region. Soon elected to the House of Burgesses, Bacon was attempting to take his seat when the Governor arrested him.

Bacon was soon released, but the final bit of damage had been done. As Info Please summarizes:
Bacon gathered his supporters, marched on Jamestown, and coerced Berkeley into granting him a commission to continue his campaigns against Native Americans. A circumspect assembly then passed several reform measures. The governor, having failed to raise a force against Bacon, fled to the Eastern Shore. He gathered enough strength to return to Jamestown, where he proclaimed Bacon and his men rebels and traitors. After a sharp skirmish Bacon recaptured the capital (Berkeley again took flight) but, fearing that he could not hold it against attack, set fire to the town. Bacon now controlled the colony, but he died suddenly (Oct., 1676), and without his leadership the rebellion collapsed. After a few months Berkeley returned to wreak a bloody vengeance before he was forced to return to England. Berkeley's removal and the end of attacks by Native Americans were the only benefits the yeomen had won in the rebellion, and the tidewater aristocracy long maintained its power.

The Royal government took over control of the colony, but never addressed the problems of the colonists. They knew better than any common people what was best. More seeds had been sown.

Move ahead to the 1760s. The French and Indian War has been fought, the French defeated, Canada taken as the latest British Crown Colony. In London, the new, expanded Empire has depleted so much of the Treasury that Prime Minister Grenville must do something to refill the coffers. Where to find some of that money? The American colonies, for one.

The experts on the American colonies consisted of men who gained their knowledge before the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War it's called in Britain), and knew nothig of the sacrifices, in blood and treasure, expended by the Americans in defense of their homes and the Empire. In short, the Elite experts knew little about Americans, and could not care less. They knew what was best. And so began the institution of several Acts of Parliament which would tinder a fire of resentment in the hearts of Americans, and smoulder for a decade.

At the end of the War America fell into an economic depression deepened by a drought that made farmers weep. Most of the colonies had gone into debt to supply the men and supplies demanded by the King's armies to fight the French. Now, as they tried to find ways to struggle out of that debt, the Royal government moved in, in its typical heavy-handed, muzzie-headed way, and changed the way finances were to be handled. This threw American merchants into a kind of panic. Many went bankrupt, many went deeply into debt which would take years, or decades, to clear.

But things seemed quiet in America, to the Grenville government, and the King. After all, there were no protests to Parliament, aside from a few respectful, mealy-mouthed requests from colonial legislatures, for a second look at things by Parliament. In America the legislatures, involved in internecine war with opposition parties, were really too busy holding, or gaining, or consolidating their own power, to worry about the lesser mortals of the citizenry. And so George Grenville passed the infamous Stamp Act as a way to increase revenues from the colonies in a way that spread the cost to all. Grenville thought it was eminently fair. He knew nothing of Americans save what the Army Commanders-in-Chief had described during the early phases of the War. Americans were insolent, rebellious, and interested in only making money. The British saw nothing of the growth in patriotism of Americans as they joined in the fight agaisnt the French. They had no conception of the way Americans had moved slowly away from the kind of stratified society of nobility known in European lands. In short, the British government had learned little from the French and Indian War, when it came to their American colonies.

The Stamp Act passed in 1765. The seeds had sprouted.

While colonial legislatures remained mired in their own power politics, one of the opposition parties in New England used the Stamp Act as a way to gain power. Unleashing two mobs in Boston they forced the Stamp Collector to resign. This success led to similar, and far more violent and bloody, mob action in the other colonies. Many of these groups took the name, "Sons of Liberty" after the term used by Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Barré. Barré rose in Parliament to speak against the Act. Speaking without notes, in response to Charles Townshend's observation when introducing the Stamp Act resolutions that the colonies should "contribute to the mother country which had planted, nurtured and indulged them," Barré replied,
"They planted by your care! No, your oppressions planted them in America. They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated, inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable, and among others to the cruelties of a savage foe and actuated by principles of true English liberties, they met all hardships with pleasure compared with those they suffered in their own country from the hands of those who should be their friends.

"They nourished up by your indulgence? they grew by your neglect of them: ---as soon as you began to care about them, that Care was Exercised in sending persons to rule over them, in one Department and another, who were perhaps the Deputies of Deputies to some Member of this house---sent to Spy out their Liberty, to misrepresent their Actions & to prey upon them; men whose behaviour on many Occasions has caused the Blood of those Sons of Liberty to recoil within them; men promoted to the highest Seats of Justice, some, who to my knowledge were glad by going to a foreign Country to Escape being brought to the Bar of a Court of Justice in their own.

"They protected by your Arms? They have nobly taken up Arms in your defence, have Exerted a Valour amidst their constant & Laborious industry for the defence of a Country, whose frontier, while drench'd in blood, its interior Parts have yielded all its little Savings to your Emolument. And believe me, remember I this Day told you so, that same Spirit of freedom which actuated that people at first, will accompany them still.---But prudence forbids me to explain myself further. God knows I do not at this Time speak from motives of party Heat, what I deliver are the genuine Sentiments of my heart; however superiour to me in general knowledge and Experience the reputable body of this house may be, yet I claim to know more of America than most of you, having seen and been conversant in that Country. The People I believe are as truly Loyal as any Subjects the King has, but a people Jealous of their Liberties and who will vindicate them, if ever they should be violated---but the Subject is too delicate & I will say no more."
Barré knew and respected Americans. He had lost an eye in the War, fighting alongside American militia. His speech made no difference to Parliament or the British government. But his words struck a spark in the colonies.

Britain didn't try to enforce the Stamp Act. Had they, no doubt the Revolution would have begun ten years earlier than it did. By the time the colonial legislatures had a grasp of the will of the people, those they considered unimportant, it was to late to head them off.

The politicians on both sides of the Atlantic had paid no attention to those they ostensibly represented. By 1775 it was no longer possible for the politicians to fix the problems they themselves had fostered. And the people would take the lead and rise in a full-fledged Revolution.

Governments who pay heed to only their supporters and friends inevitably become tyrannical, not to mention myopic. Political parties who interest themselves in gaining power, and expect support for not being the other Party, are out of touch with those they represent, those who pay their salaries, those who expect honest governance.

Just as in 1675/76, and in the 1760s, the citizenry are not being represented but misrepresented by those whose salaries they pay. Democrats represent the Special Interests who contribute to their campaign coffers; Republicans strive to be 'Not Democrats'. Neither Party pays heed to the citizenry of the United States. Instead they are content that each knows best what the people 'need', and continue their power politics games, while the citizens of this nation grow angry, fearful, and discontented.

Have seeds been sown?

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Free Writing Course: f2k!

  • F2K is a free online creative writing course sponsored by
    Writers' Village University and staffed by volunteer Mentors.

  • The course includes seven one-week fiction writing lessons and is designed for beginning writers; however, intermediate and advanced writers are encouraged to take the course as a refresher or to socialize with and encourage beginning writers. Thousands of writers have discovered that F2K is a great way to break writers block.

  • F2K is offered 4 times a year.
    Subscribe to The Writers' Ezine (Free)
    for updates and WVU class schedules.

Yep! The first f2k session of 2010 is almost here! We're busy getting our Mentors back into the fold, and searching among our computer files for the correct ones to use during the course. Then, on January 6th we'll watch the hundreds of registrants flood into the f2k site, trying to find their study groups, checking out the community gathering place - the Cafe f2k - meeting and greeting their fellow writing students. Day One is usually a confusing time for newbies, but a fun time, nonetheless!

Best of all it's free!

Need a refresher to stimulate your writing? Are you missing something in your writing and wonder what it might be? Well, in f2k you might discover what it is. The course is easy, fun, and one way to begin networking with other writers.

Did I mention it's free? :)

I stumbled on f2k while looking for a short story recommended by my then-Sweet Patootie. On the page was one of those banner ads. I got curious and clicked on it when I finished reading the story, and registered for f2k. I enjoyed it so much that after the course I joined WVU. That was 2001. WVU has been my writing home ever since.

Mentors are volunteers from WVU, as well as alumni of f2k. They're not teachers but helpers, and they're invaluable. Each Mentor has one study group to shepherd through the course. They give feedback to each student for the first lesson, and then it's up to the students to give feedback. After that first lesson the Mentors are there to keep an eye on things, give guidance where it's needed, and answer questions.

We have two chats each week, where we discuss the lessons, and then just about everything else under the sun. Many f2k students enjoy the experience so much that, like myself, they join WVU afterward. :)

For a small fee the students can get their Mentor's feedback throughout the rest of the lessons. I think the fee is $25 for the session. That small fee, from a handful of students, tends to provide most of the funds needed to keep f2k going. WVU, the parent organization, provides the rest of the funding. Bob Hembree (our Founder and Fearless Leader) set it up this way, years ago, and it's worked well.

So why not check it out? It doesn't cost a thing, and you may find it to be one of the more enjoyable experiences of your 2010 writing. I did, many years ago, and have never regretted it! Register right now!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Merry Christmas To All!

Merry Christmas!

From December of 2007, a repost, because it's important (with an update):

Alright, so it's getting overwhelming, all the Christmas music, the Carols, the red and green colors on everything. Even the Salvation Army jingling their bells is getting a bit on your nerves. So what? It's once a year, and you don't have to pay that much attention to it.

Too commercialized? Well of course! This is America, Land of the Shopper! What do you expect? We celebrate the Founding Fathers with sales. We mark Independence Day with more sales. We commercialize everything we can, whenever we can. It's our way. So relax. It's not important.

What is important is to remember that this season is about Hope - true Hope. Not how many nifty gifts you get, not the cards you send and receive. Hope. That's what the Christmas celebration is all about. We mark December 25th as the day that Jesus was born, He whom we call the Christ, the Son of GOD. A true gift from our Creator. His coming gives Hope to all who have sinned - that's you! And me! - that they will be forgiven those sins, thus redeemed from Death. That's what Christmas is about. The greatest Gift ever!


Now I know, as do most of you, that some folks like to grumble that Jesus was not born in December - Winter - at all, and that the Christmas celebration is simply melded onto the ancient Pagan Saturnalia. Well, so what? It's true. And how does that change the meaning in the slightest? If you take a Butcher's Shop and clean it out, change the decor, and open a Tea Shoppe, is it still a Butcher's Shop? Of course not. That's gone and something new is in its place.

So what do we know about the birth of Jesus? Well, not so terribly much actually. We have to rely on the Gospels for much of the information, and some of it is inaccurate (Scholars believe Mark's was the first Gospel account written, and that many years after Christ's Resurrection). Now that's merely the writers' errors as they attempted to match misunderstood prophecies.

For instance, there's no archaeological evidence that Bethlehem in Judea even existed in the 1st Century. It's a small city now, but at the time of Jesus' birth it didn't exist. However, there was, and is, another Bethlehem, and it was close to Nazareth, rather than far away, as is the accepted Bethlehem in Judea (75 miles from Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea). So why did the writers describe the town as Bethlehem in Judea? Because they misread, or misunderstood, the prophecy. Here, read it with me. First the New Testament account:
"In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…" (Matthew 2:1)

And what is the prophecy about His birthplace?
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)
Pretty straightforward, isn't it? But is it? You see the word 'clans' in the prophecy? Not towns or places, or villages. Clans. All that prophecy means is that the smallest of the clans among the descendants of Judah would produce the Messiah. As James Tabor said: "Everyone thinks 'Bethlehem' is a place, and indeed there were towns named 'House of Bread' in Judea and in Galilee, but...the term Bethlehem-Ephrath/Ephratah is the name of a clan of Judah--children of Caleb through Hur, who was the firstborn of an extraordinary woman named Ephrathah..." (This is found in 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament)

Would Joseph have taken his heavily-pregnant betrothed 75 miles, through a barren wasteland - home to thieves and other criminals - to a town that did not exist, for a Roman Census? No. And only males would have been required anyway. No, if Joseph really did take Mary to any Bethlehem it would have been in Galilee, where a town did exist, and which still exists today. Don't feel badly about the writers - we all misread/misunderstand things, and so did they.

Okay, so what about that whole December 25th deal? Isn't that bogus? Yep! It really is. The accounts of His birth, you might recall, included shepherds tending their flocks in the fields at night.
"In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over the flock by night." (Luke 2:8)

Not in the Winter. Those sheep and their shepherds would not have been in the fields in a Judean Winter night. But they would have if it was in the Spring, as some believe, or in the Autumn, as I and some others believe. Jesus was not born in the early Winter. The date the early Church chose was in fact the date of the Roman Saturnalia. They did it for precisely the reasons you would expect: to draw pagans into the fold with a festival at the same time of year as one of their old festivals. The actual date is unknown, just as it is completely unimportant. It is the birth of the Messiah that is important. Keep that in mind.

From Jesus Police:
There are various theories about Jesus' birth. Many believed that Jesus was born on January 6 (the birthday of the God Osiris). The rationale for this date was the belief that Jesus was exactly 30 years old when he died and that he died on April 6. Counting backwards from April 6 exactly 29 years and 3 months gave a birth date of January 6 (Craveri, 1967). This date was adopted by the Eastern Church and called "Epiphany" or "The Appearance."

The African Tertullian (c 160 -220 A.D.) and the Roman Hippolytus (c 170-235 A.D.) believed the date to be March 25th, the spring equinox under the ancient Roman calendar. Clement of Alexandria (c 150-215 A.D.) believed that Jesus was born on May 20, the 25 day of the Egyptian month of Pachon. None of these theories had any real facts associated with them, but they were popular nonetheless.

A 3rd Century Christian named Sextus Julius Africanus believed that March 25 was Jesus' conception and the day of Earth's creation as well. Using March 25 as the day of conception, he skipped ahead 9 months to December 25 as the birth date.

What date was it? We don't know. Nobody knows, and, again, it doesn't matter. What matters at this time of year is that most Christians are celebrating His birth, which brought into the world Hope of Salvation.

That Hope of Salvation is what all the hoopla is all about, Folks. The Carols and the decorations. Even the Santa Claus images hearkens back to a Christian Saint in most of our traditions. So rather than get huffy about all of the lights and packages, even the non-stop music (so much of it absolutely lousy!), why not remember that it means Hope. Hope for all of us.

And that was GOD’s gift to all of us!

Merry Christmas To All!

The Nativity

Update: More information for those who want to know more:

As always, with ancient texts, the translations from Aramaic/Greek/ Latin/Old English into our modern tongue can allow all sorts of errors to creep in, while most of the basic meanings remain. In this case take a look at the place where Jesus was born - the place where the manger was.

Luke 2:7, says:
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
But the earliest text doesn't actually say 'inn' at all. From Christian Answers:
The text of Luke 2 notes there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the "inn." Unfortunately, the Greek term translated inn (kataluma) had multiple meanings, among them inn or caravansary. Used only one other time in the New Testament (Luke 22:11 and the parallel passage, Mark 14:14), it was the place where Jesus observed the Last Supper with His disciples. Here, Dr. Luke gave additional information about the kataluma. He said it was a furnished large upper story room within a private Jerusalem house. The kataluma of the last night of Jesus' earthly ministry was the "upper room."

We suggest the kataluma of Jesus' first night was a similar room in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph came into town with Mary ready to deliver. Arriving at Joseph's ancestral home, they found it already full of other family members who had arrived earlier. While the exact reason space was not made for a pregnant woman is unknown, it probably indicates the house was full of elder members of Joseph's family, who had priority.
So Joseph took Mary out to the barn, right? Nooo ... not in a poor village.

Chrstian Answers continues:
So that is when Mary and Joseph went to the barn, right? Not exactly. The Biblical account mentions neither barn nor cave—it is assumed because of the manger [and because of modern perceptions - European perceptions, mostly, that would never understand keeping livestock inside a home.]. Mangers are animal feeding troughs, and barns are where one would expect to find them. But in the ancient world, as well as in primitive modern cultures, mangers are also found within the house itself. Animals are regularly kept in homes at night.

A small number of flock animals were housed, not in attached exterior sheds, but inside the house in one of the ground floor rooms. Here, animals, tools and agricultural produce were stored. Here, too, food was prepared and possibly consumed. Family sleeping quarters were on the second floor (an upper room). By being inside, the animals were protected from the elements and theft. In addition, their presence provided body heat for cool nights, access to for the daily meal and dung as a critical fuel source.

Excavations in Israel have uncovered numerous installations within domestic structures which probably represent ancient mangers. Some are carved, but most are stone built. Wooden mangers, of course, have not survived in the archaeological record.

Consequently, Mary and Joseph did not find space in the living quarters of the ancestral family home. Instead, they stayed downstairs in the domestic stable, still within the ancestral home, where a manger or two was located. Here they were visited by the shepherds, and maybe the wise men some time later.

After all, Joseph was going home, to family. He was not a stranger, nor a poor beggar. But with room at a premium he and Mary would have to be put up where there was room - in the very room where the livestock was kept. Where the manger(s) were.

So Luke knew what he was writing, described it with enough detail for those who lived at that time. And they knew what he meant. By 1611, the year the King James Bible was first published, the translations had been corrupted as to ancient meanings. From Greek to Latin to Old English to the English of King James. A room in the house (where there was no more room) where the livestock spent the night had become a stable/barn/cave. But that isn’t what Luke described.

The birth of Christ followed the prophecies, which did not include heartless family members. But He was born in very humble circumstances, not in a palace. He was to be one with His people. His birth and life made Him that.

More thoughts about His humble birth: Jesus in a Manger

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hannukah - A Brief History

At the death of Alexander the Great, his Empire was divided
between three of his Generals. Israel, during this Second
Temple Period, found itself under the rule of the Seleucid
Dynasty of Greek rulers, based in Syria. At the beginning
of the Seleucid reign, the Jewish people were rarely treated
harshly, although they were, in fact, a subject people.

But they were allowed to worship God in their own way.

Over the years quite a few Jews embraced the Hellenist
lifestyle, and saw little loss in the extinction of
the Judaic way of life.

Antiochus IV came to the throne and embarked on a campaign
of assimilation. Jews would live as the Greeks did,
worship as the Greeks did, or they would die. The Temple
was looted of it's treasures, and desecrated
( even a statue of Zeus was apparently placed on the holy altar).
Jewish religious observances were forbidden.
Antiochus proclaimed himself a god: Antiochus Epiphanies.
He ordered altars and statues honoring the Gods and
Goddesses placed in all the cities and towns,
and had the Jewish people rounded up.
They were ordered to worship the Pagan Gods,
and perform acts considered immoral by Jews.

Indignities were heaped upon the Jewish people.

A Hellenist Jew "High Priest", Jason, gaining his
post through bribery, was outfoxed
by another Hellenist Jew "High Priest" of the
Temple, Menelaus, who outbribed him for the exalted post.
Angered, Jason raised a large army
and began a Civil War against Menelaus and his supporters,
attacking the Temple killing many innocent people.
This was the perfect excuse for Antiochus to move.
He poured his troops into the Country, looting the Temple
once again, and slaughtering thousands of Jews.
Little did Antiochus realize . . .

A fuse had been lit under the Jewish people. It would take
the right person to begin the fight against Antiochus.
A priest in a small town would be the one!

A little east of the City of Jerusalem was a small town
called Modin. Mattityahu, the patriarch of the Hasmonean Clan - a
Priestly Clan - decided to make a stand. He and his 5 sons attacked
the Greek soldiers there, and slew them.

Then the family destroyed the idols they'd been ordered to worship.

With a circle of brave followers, Mattityahu took to the hills - a
time honored tradition of embattled Jews in the Holy Land - and
began gathering forces around him.
The time had come to destroy the Pagan over-rulers.

Now Mattityahu turned over the small army to his son Yehuda Maccabee,
and the army grew. Legend says they took the motto:
"Who is like You among the mighty ones, O God!"
and wrote it on their shields. Using the darkness of night,
the Maccabean forces would storm out of the Judean hills onto
unsuspecting Syrian troops, and having slain and
scattered the enemy, retire to their strongholds again.
A force of 47,000 syrians were defeated by a Jewish force of
6,000 in one encounter alone!

Antiochus, enraged at this, sent a larger force still to destroy the rebel Jews.
The two forces met at Bet Tzur.
In a miraculous battle, the badly outnumbered Jewish rebels
defeated the huge Syrian Army. Victorious, Yehuda Maccabee led his forces
to Jerusalem, and liberated the City.
The first order of business was to clear the Temple, and especially the
Sanctuary, of the idols of the Greeks, and rebuild the Altar.
Then they would be able to re-dedicate the Temple for Divine Services.

Among the legends concerning Hannukah, is one regarding
the Holy Fire. It seems that from the time of Moses,
Holy Fire burned on the Altar. Even during the Exile in
Babylon, the Holy Fire is said to have been kept
miraculously burning, hidden in a secret place.
But when Judah Maccabee and his men had placed wood on the
rebuilt altar, and readied an animal for
the sacrifice, the Holy Fire was gone.
It was unlawful to kindle the flames
with what was called "strange fire".
So Judah and his men prayed to God.
Miraculously, Holy Fire came forth from the altar!
The altar was dedicated on the 25th of the Jewish month
of Kislev. And so Jews today celebrate the 25th of Kislev
as the first night of Hannukah.

Perhaps the best-known of the miracles related to Hannukah -
better known than the miracle of the Holy Fire,
and better-known even than the miraculous Victories of the
badly outnumbered Jewish Rebels - is the Miracle of the Oil.

Within the Temple stood a seven-branched candelabrum,
known to Jews as the Menorah. It burned day and night fueled
by olive oil of the highest purity.
The purity was guarded throughout the entire process of
production, and was kept in special containers that bore the
seal of the High Priest.
But when the Maccabees entered the Temple, everything had
been desecrated and defiled it seemed. Except for one, small flagon of pure oil.
In it there was enough oil to keep the Menorah
lit for a single day. Perhaps some pure oil could be found
in the City, but a search turned up not a drop.
It would take a week to make more of the pure oil.
What to do?
Depend on God, of course.
The Menorah was lit, and the priests began to work on
making more of the pure oil.
At the end of that first day, the Menorah in the Temple
didn't flicker and go out.
It burned as if it had all the pure olive oil in the world.
By the time the new oil was ready, eight days had passed!
And still the Temple Menorah continued to burn!
A Miracle!

The following year a feast of Praise
and Thanksgiving was proclaimed.
It would last for the eight days of the Miracle.
And more than 2000 years later, Jews around the
world light menorahs,
praise God, and remember.

From one Gentile, to my Jewish friends everywhere,

"Happy Hannukah!"

~~~"Hannukah means rededication."~~~

Any historical errors are mine alone.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Changing Meanings

I watched “The Bishop’s Wife” a few nights ago. No, I’ve never seen it before. I’ve seen clips, but not the whole thing. Cary Grant, David Niven, Loretta Young. A nice film, good for the Christmas season. And as I watched there came a scene where Loretta Young is brushing her hair and humming a light tune. Her husband, the Bishop, turns to her, saying something like, “That’s a gay tune, dear.”

And it struck me, again, how words have morphed from one thing - one meaning - to another entirely. The Bishop wasn’t, of course, dissing his wife, or the tune. He wasn’t using a slur. He was describing the tune as light, happy, pleasant. Nowadays that word ‘gay’ no longer has that meaning. To use it as it once was used is to confuse people who will assume that you don’t like something, or are insulting someone, or are maybe taking a political stance. Sad, ain’t it?

In the same vein, I stumbled on a Christian radio station online, and while decorating my apartment for Christmas, listened to a sermon. Why not? It’s Sunday.

And listening, and relating it to that phrase from “The Bishop’s Wife”, I thought of how language has changed over the centuries. Take the simple phrase from Scripture, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”
Mark 10:14 : But when Jesus saw [it], he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Kinda scary, huh? And confusing, what with Him being displeased. Suffer isn’t a nice word. But that’s not the meaning that the readers of the Scripture took from it originally. Suffer meant ‘let’ or ‘allow’, not “to undergo or feel pain or distress“ as the dictionary defines it. In the King James English the word suffer, in this instance, is archaic, misunderstood, a head-scratcher. But the Word means quite simply ‘allow.’

Anyway, back at the sermon, at one point the preacher was talking about Christ dwelling among us, and my mind left the sermon - it does go off on tangents - and went to the original language from which the Scripture referenced came. The Scripture, of course, is from the book of John:
John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Now we know John did not speak King James’ English. I daresay he spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, and early Latin - as spoken by the Romans of the time. He also spoke Greek. But not English, which didn’t exist as yet. So we’re talking about a translation from the original language to the English of 1611. In fact the oldest version of this book of John is written in Greek. And in that passage the word is not ‘dwelt’, but ‘tabernacled’. ‘The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us [...]’.

A tabernacle is a tent, as the Hebrews knew, made of green boughs, animal skins, or other materials. A tent. We’ve come to think of a tabernacle as a kind of temple, holy place, something having to do with a congregation and worship. But at its root the word simply means a home - a humble place to dwell with your family.

Not as a king, or tyrant, or dictator. As a member of the family.

Now, in John we are told that the Word - Christ, the Son of God - became flesh - became a human being - and took His place among us as a member of the family of Man. He didn’t simply live among us. No, He became fully one of us, with all the frailties of human flesh, for a purpose. To fulfill God’s promise to redeem His people from Sin.

That simple word tabernacle, which is not quite understood today, has a very simple, yet utterly powerful importance. God, so John tells us, first created His Word - Logos, Christ, The Redeemer - and created nothing else. Whether or not you accept that, it’s what the Scripture says. Christ isn't simply God's only begotten Son, but Creation itself.

Now, go back to Genesis. Adam and Eve. See the corruption of understanding that has lasted for millennia. Now we’ve come to think of Eve as such a weak thing, easily tempted, who led poor Adam astray. The Scripture tells the story, but we’ve managed to sort of misunderstand the full impact of the tale. Remember that Eve was tempted by the Serpent. Satan himself. Satan is the Deceiver. A most powerful Spirit of Evil. Adam was merely tempted by Eve. Who was the weaker? Who was the more easily led astray? Not Eve, but Adam.

And God knew this was going to happen. Knew it before he - or The Word - created Adam in His image. He knew that Man would fall before the blandishments of the Devil, would Sin, and would have to be punished. Why punished? Why not simply forgiven for this transgression?

Look at the Scripture. From Numbers 23:19 :
God [is] not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do [it]? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

And what had he said, what words that required such a dire punishment to all Humanity? Genesis, again. Genesis 2:17 :
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

When God makes a promise He keeps it. He does not equivocate, He does not hem and haw. Having said it He keeps His word. Thus, having eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve had to die, and their offspring were condemned to death, as well. God had no choice because He explained what was permitted, what was not, and the penalty for disobedience. And God knew this was going to happen. But He also planned for this. He created a way out for Humanity. That ‘escape clause’ is the Christ - the Word made flesh.

And once made flesh - becoming human - the Word did not live in a temple or a palace. He ‘pitched His tent’ with the rest of His family, took upon Himself all the sorrows of the flesh. He - the Son of God - made Himself one of us. You see, the English word dwelt has nowhere near the depth of meaning as the word John chose. Jesus didn’t simply dwell with us, but became one of us, fully, and thus provided for all time, the means to redemption from Sin. Redemption provided by God long before Adam and Eve existed.

When I think of that simple passage, it makes me feel very good. In Eastern religions we see the idea of Men becoming Gods, or like Gods. It feels alien to us in the West, as we cannot envision anyone being ‘good’ enough to become a God. But in Christianity our God deigns to become Human, to save us. And I like that idea much better.

And how is your Christmas season going? :)