As Tom Jones might say, it’s not un-us-u-al to celebrate the birthday of a nation, liberated from its colonial status, or of a republic, freed from the rule of kings and dictators. But we rarely celebrate the birthday of dead individuals. As long as my Mum and Dad and my three brothers and sister were alive, I never forgot to wish them a happy birthday. Not any more. But I remember their birth-dates, and this year for example I reminded myself on her birthday that my mother would be 113 and on his that my father would be 115. I recall in fact the day they were born more than the day they died.
The Man we call Jesus of Nazareth would be 2015 years old this year, and we recall both the day of His birth and the day of His death. We don’t know exactly the date of either, but have created Christmas Day and Good Friday, and make merry on the former and try to feel sad on the latter. And because of Easter Sunday, Christians believe He came back to life, reunited with the body crucified on Calvary, now Up There in Heaven where my parents, not yet reunited with their bodies, are enjoying His company. Which is why devout Christians the world over celebrate Christmas as the birth of their Savior whose death opened the gates of Heaven for them. The rest of us content ourselves, if we are lucky enough to have family and friends and the wherewithal, to exchange greetings and gifts and renew our hope for peace on earth to all men of good will.
It is a charming myth, and even atheists enjoy the festivities, the decorations, the family reunions, the music, the carols and Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings. We manage even to tolerate the commercial hoopla that exploits the whole month of December. We do not spoil the fun by ridiculing the myth and the credulity that created it. We try even to forget briefly the wars being waged as we sing “Joy to the World”. It is not the time to be a Scrooge or a wet blanket. We are conscious nonetheless of the fact that the Christ myth is as incredible and as childish as that of Santa Claus. After the festive season, when we have put the tree in the trash and the decorations back in the cupboard, we will get back to adding more posts to the four hundred already published here, to invite our Believers on the Brink to discard definitively the myth of the birth of a divine-human baby whose very name, Jesus, means Savior.