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A Christmas story: A time when belief triumphs

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I’m kind of fixated on the Nativity story; you know, the thing sung about by everybody from Nat King Cole to Mariah Carey in “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” with the angels and the shepherds.

It’s a dramatic, sublime, charming and sweet scenario, and certainly a lot more uplifting than what’s to come later in the New Testament.

But, come to find out, after doing a bit of research, most experts don’t think it even happened.

What!? Didn’t happen!

Yeah, didn’t happen. Fake news! In fact, some think maybe Jesus Christ never existed. Or, if He did, He was born four years before Anno Domini Zero. And, there’s debate as to whether He was born in Bethlehem or Nazareth. Or somewhere else. The evil King Herod may or may not have been alive at the time.

Here’s the deal. The only recounting we get that includes all those details like shepherds, manger, no room in the inn, the three wise men and all that, comes from the Gospel according to Luke, which is believed to have been written about 85 CE, fifty to sixty years after Christ’s crucifixion, give or take five to 10 years, during the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian, who was, by most accounts, a cruel and evil man who ended up being assassinated by his so-called friends in the palace.

Experts of the Bible think Luke was a physician and a disciple of Christ, but probably didn’t know Jesus when He was on earth. The Luke gospel we have isn’t even an original, but comes from papyri fragments dating to the early or middle of the third century.

Papyri fragments from the third century? That’s what it’s based on? How is that for a very vague and murky provenance? There’s more evidence for UFOs.

Let’s just take one little sliver of the Nativity story and break it down. The Magi.

Far as I could find out in my research, which consists of a computer and the web, nobody — and I mean nobody — can back up this story of three guys coming from the east, guided by a star, to present gifts to the Christ child.

C’mon man! Three guys bearing valuable gifts show up at the manger? Wise men? Kings? On camels?

A couple of years ago some astronomers tried to research the matter of the Christmas star and the best they could do is find that a supernova appeared in the sky “sometime” around 2,000 years ago. That’s a pretty thin reed of evidence.

Other experts have tried to verify some of the story by gauging it against King Herod, whose history is somewhat established, but still a bit cloudy because the story of the Jews, Judea, and Jerusalem at that time is about as chaotic as the Mideast remains today.

Some theologians, historians, even archaeologists try to explain this away by saying that in ancient times, people didn’t record “history” in the sense we understand it; it wasn’t important to be chronological, or even accurate. I don’t buy that; I think people wanted facts back then, too.

We’re expected to believe that this most important event in our history — the birth of Our Savior — without a scintilla of evidence that it actually occurred, or occurred as we’ve been told it did.

I think the whole thing was made up. But I have an explanation of why.

Christ was only important after He was crucified and rose from the dead. Before that He was an obscure guy, one of many itinerant prophets roaming the landscape at the time, and there was no need to record any particulars about His origin or life story. Why would anyone do that, He was just a nobody born in a tiny backwater of a huge empire?

After all, there are very few details of His life before age 30. Maybe He never told anyone about the circumstances of His birth. Maybe even He didn’t know the whole story.

There wasn’t any need to write anything down about the man, and very few if any people knew how to write, anyway.

Until later.

Then, after a number of years, one of His believers came up with a grand birth story befitting His now-grand stature. It wouldn’t do to simply say He was born a nobody of nobody parents, in a nowhere place. God’s son would not be born in such a way.

But He probably was.

It doesn’t bother me one iota that the story has no evidential substantiation. I listen to “Silent Night” or “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel” and it takes me to another place, a location reserved for believers, and with a lot of room for non-believers, too. As I close my eyes, I see three men on the horizon, following a beautiful beacon in the sky, slowly coming upon a modest stable. It sends chills up my spine.

Fall on your knees, Oh, hear the angel’s voices!

O night divine! O night when Christ was born.

O night, O holy night, O night divine.

And, I think, it’s not accurate, but true, incongruous as that sounds.

John McGauley, an author and radio talk-show host, writes from Keene. He can be contacted at mcgauleyink@gmail.com

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