Some thoughts on Christmas

December 23, 2023

Thomas Froese

A nativity scene  in an antiquated wagon displayed in a front yard.


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(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, December 23, 2023)

I recently watched a debate involving a couple of academics, two cerebral rock stars who talked at length about life, including the nature of goodness.

The secular humanist explained that goodness doesn’t depend on God or supernatural agents. “But if they’re around, they can step up and show where we’re wrong.”

No, said the other. To even think about the concept of goodness, it has to be already written on the human heart, if not the fabric of the universe. There’s a relationship between good and God, whether we acknowledge it or not.

They talked briefly, only, about Jesus. Which, I think, is like talking about light without talking much about the sun.

But in our time of incivility there’s an appetite for peaceful debate. Almost a million people have seen this one online. Both men spoke with a spirit of humility. They agreed to dialogue more. We needn’t fear it.

Which brings us to Christmas and that supernatural “stepping up,” the story of how the Christ child was born in the most mysterious way.

Two thoughts.

First, the Christmas narrative changes the focus from human goodness (and we have goodness) to human reckoning (because we have darkness too.) Nobody likes reckoning. We already have enough to fear: like yesterday’s screw-ups, or today’s storms, or tomorrow’s unknowns.

Certainly the first Christmas was full of fears. So the phrase “Don’t be afraid,” comes repeatedly in the account of what happened in Palestine’s Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

When Mary was told of her role birthing the child? “Don’t be afraid.” When shepherds saw the strange angelic host in the night sky? “Don’t be afraid.” When Joseph was warned to run with his family from the enraged King Herod hell-bent on killing young Jesus? “Don’t be afraid.”

Speaking of fear, Jesus didn’t later anger the religious elite or occupying Romans because he simply told people to be good, or nice, to each other. That’s not why his friends deserted him, or why he was called a devil, or why he was executed horribly on a cross.

No, Jesus – and there is compelling evidence to trust the ancient accounts – healed the lame, and gave the blind sight, and showed astonishing love and compassion in various ways, while also teaching often about forgiveness and reckoning, that is reconciliation with God.

Of course, not everyone is interested. A suitor can be rebuffed. A suitor often is. We need not listen to many poems or sad love songs to know. Even so. “Don’t be afraid. I’m on your side.” This, peace and goodwill from the God of Christmas.

Second thought. Most of us will be forgotten soon enough after our time ends on this spinning ball in space. Even the adored rock stars. (My daughters would now nod to Taylor Swift, Time Person of the Year, thank you.) But the core of Christmas has a certain earthiness. Along with its historic veracity, this earthiness has given the narrative a remarkable staying power worldwide.

This isn’t to defend every action of anyone running around carrying Christ’s name during the past 2000 years. I happen to agree with Woody Allen’s quip that “If Jesus came back and saw what’s being done in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”

Even so, if God did come in human flesh to our dirty little ball of a planet, he played by earth’s rules. I mean, born in an animal pen? Come on. Some half-blind cow could have stepped on him. And choosing a common, impoverished family in ancient Israel, a nation under tyranny?

The truth is that any of us are journeying as imperfect people. Life’s road is often hard. And through the year, indeed through our lives, there are always voices clamouring for attention. Always one rock star or another.

So we should look honestly. And listen. Then when we get quiet (and the holidays can be the worst time to try) we can hear a reliable declaration worth something. Like that deeper peace.

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December 23, 2023 • Posted in ,
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10 thoughts on “Some thoughts on Christmas”

  1. Thank you Thomas for your thoughtful ( as always) insights.
    Blessings to you and your family,
    janet sproat

  2. Hello Thomas Froese,
    I appreciate your columns in the Hamilton Spectator, always urging for kindness, and respect for everyone, for all are God’s children. I found this in your Christmas column as well, published on Saturday, December 3.
    I wish to make an observation on your third-last paragraph about Jesus’ birth in an animal pen.
    I think that our common view of Jesus’ birth is coming to be seen as flawed. I am referring to the view promoted by Kenneth E. Bailey who has explained his views in some of his writing and also in a series of YouTube videos that you can find at
    One really salient point for me is that the word “inn” is not correct. That Greek word is used one other time in Luke, when Jesus sends two disciples into the city, to enter a house, and say to the master: Where is the “upper room” where I may observe the Passover with my disciples?”
    The real word for “inn” is used by Jesus when he tells the story of the man who fell among robbers and a Samaritan man brought this man to an “inn”.
    Bailey has four videos on the birth of Jesus and I think that is closer to how Jesus’ birth actually took place.
    I think that you will find these videos as interesting and enlightening as I did and still do.
    Blessings to you and all yours in this Christmas season and in the new year to come.

  3. Amazing. Everything about Christ’s birth was mysterious. I can only thank God for everyone who has come to know and believe in him. (And for those who haven’t).

    Thanks for the piece. Merry Christmas

  4. Well, thanks for the thought, Pat, but if you do things (write things, etc) that are what you otherwise can not do (write) etc, then is it courage or is it something else? In either case, best wishes for your 2024. Writers (who are often insecure) always do appreciate the affirmation. I hope you find new things, courage and other worthwhile things, in your own new year.

  5. Well, Herman, sorry for the delay, but I wanted to say thanks for not only your kind note, but for your link on the teachings of Kenneth E. Bailey. I see he has a series on this topic, and I’ve just teed it up to watch soon. Looks interesting. Best for your 2024. May you keep learning new things.

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