The father was there to pay Caesar’s taxes — some things never change, as taxes are still very much with us today. In an animal stall of an inn with no room, a child was born to this poor Jewish carpenter and his betrothed. A little more than 33 years later, he would be crucified by the Romans following a three-year ministry that continues to reverberate around the world, including the story of rising from the dead and eventually ascending to heaven to be with God.
The life and teachings of Jesus are the basis for Christianity, which became the Catholic Church and later spawned a spin-off of protestants, which today includes Baptists, Methodists and a host of other denominations.
Just as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and related incidents shook the United States and the world, so did the orchestrated Nov. 13 attacks at a Paris soccer stadium and other locations throughout the City of Love, which also hosted a climate change summit that sparked global warming demonstrations Nov. 30.
Religion has been used as an excuse or reason for war and violence since before the time of Christ; Jews, Islamics, Christians, Hindus and others sometimes seemed doomed to never getting along.
Contrast that to the image of the Nativity scene painted so eloquently by the often-quoted Luke, Chapter 2, in the King James Version of the Bible.
Jesus Christ, according to the Bible, was all about helping others and turning the other cheek, although the Jewish leaders of the time thought of him as a threat due to his teachings and claim to be the long-awaited Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament held sacred by Jews and followers of Islam.
Jesus loved to tell stories and parables in his sermons, and once said that people who helped others, expressed kindness to those in despair, were helping him by doing his work.
Grandpa Jones of the “Hee Haw” television show and the Grand Ol’ Opry had a song, “The Christmas Guest,” about a man expecting a promised Christmas visit from Jesus but instead getting a series of visitors who needed help the man willingly gave them.
At the end of Christmas Day, Christ told the man he had hosted Jesus numerous times that day.
Even for those who don’t believe in Christ or have questions, the point is that he was a champion of the downtrodden and instructed his followers to help their neighbors, even those with whom they disagreed, were enemies and those who did not share the faith.
That’s some good advice even for atheists or those who believe in Islam.
As comedians have pointed out, it is ironic that Christmas — the celebration of the birthday of a poor man who championed the poor and downtrodden and talked about being a shepherd to lost sheep before being crucified — is marked by a month of often crass holiday commercialism and sales.
Nothing is wrong with giving gifts at Christmas, which replicates what the Magi (the three Kings) did for Jesus as a youngster.
This Christmas, however, why not try to find a worthy charity that helps those in need? Examples are the Kingsport Times-News Rescue Fund that provides food, the Salvation Army Angel Tree program that provides gifts, or other charities that help those who need help.
And someone you personally know may not be in need of just food, clothing, money, a place to stay or a warm meal. They may have all those things but be lonely, or maybe they need just a kind word or simply an ear ready to listen. Give those gifts, too, now and all year around. Merry Christmas, and if you’re not so inclined, happy holidays or Happy Hanukkah.