Friday, December 23, 2011

Health Care and Christmas

Hustle and bustle, buying and selling, travel and crowds, rich and poor, teens giving birth to babies---not much has changed in 2,000 years, except there is more of the same, and at a faster pace. Over the last two millenia, the focus on this time of year has waxed and waned depending on how religious societies have been. Most people know the story, in America. That's because the nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles by Believers who were seeking asylum from religious persecution. Granted there were plenty of secular reasons to come to the New World--gold, freedom, land, safety, and more. But there are many parts of the world where the population does not know the story of the manger.

But the story of a baby born to a teenage virgin Jewish girl is one that has stood the test of time, and it is the Reason for the Season. When a bunch of ragged shepherds outside the ancient town of Bethlehem were startled, or practically scared to death, by a heavenly host of angels that night, it was pretty apparent that this particular birth of a newborn infant boy was no regular occasion. Admit it, how many times have you been given a personal message by celestial beings who covered the night sky? Then, when you checked out the story, it turned out to be true? So there it is--nothing short of miraculous.

In those days, the life span of most people was pretty short, and there was a lot to fear. Death was common; and for the poor, it was an everyday experience. Not a great future for most people--slavery for many, disease, bad food, and horrific living conditions. Good times it was not. Then, if that wasn't enough, you had the Roman army on your case all the time, and everyone else in the countries around wanted you dead, too. Talk about having no reason to celebrate new life!

However, when Jesus who is called the Christ, was delivered to Mary, His mother, and to His earthly father Joseph, the story only just began. Although His parents were stunned at the attention, and often confused by the meaning of it all, they knew there was something special about this child. Although there is no recording in the Bible of Joseph's thoughts or words, and very little is mentioned about him, it is recorded that Mary pondered all these things in her heart. A classic song by recording artist Mark Lowry, "Mary did you Know?" puts the birth of the Christ child into perspective. Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0WIJw8JVeU.

Healthcare in ancient Biblical times was, at best, difficult. According to Biblical Archeology Review (BAR) Magazine, Both the Bible and archaeology indicate that numerous options were available. Generally, however, cult and healing were closely related. Of one thing we may be sure: Raging bellyaches—as well as the other infirmities that flesh is heir to—were not uncommon in ancient times. Archaeoparasitologists (archaeologists who study the remains of ancient parasites) have found evidence of intestinal diseases—both tapeworm (taenia) and whipworm (trichuris trichiura) infections—in ancient Israel. Lice infestation was doubtless a problem if we may judge from lice combs recovered at Megiddo and elsewhere (see scarred skull from Dimona). Numerous other medical problems, from infertility to epidemics, are referred to in the Bible and other ancient literature.

As in modern times, patients usually followed a hierarchy of options, beginning with simple and inexpensive ones, and, if circumstances required, moving to more complicated and expensive ones. Today, our first option for a stomachache might be an antacid from the medicine chest. If the stomachache persists, we seek help from a specialist. Much more detail about medical treatments during the ancient times in the Middle East can be found at this site: http://www.bib-arch.org/e-features/ancient-medicine.asp.  Plus, much info about women, puberty, menstruation, and child birth can be found at this site: http://www.womeninthebible.net/3.2.Major_Events.htm.

Regardless of the times, what is known concerning the birth of Jesus has been repeated down through the ages by both the spoken and written word. The evidence abounds even in secular literature that He did exist, and there is plenty of evidence that His life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection happened. Eye witness accounts from the 33 years of His life, career, and ministry have been substantiated, and the entire calendar of time exists as a result of His birth divided into before (B.C.) and after (A.D). The history of the world has been based on that one single fact.

Believers celebrate this time of year as one of the most days. Those who are not still celebrate the holiday because it's an excuse to party, give gifts, and spend time away from work and see family and friends. In fact, Jesus wasn't even born in December. Most scholars believe His birth occurred in the Spring during the time that shepherds would have been tending flocks of sheep outside at night. Christmas was officially recognized initially by the Church in the third century as a way to piggyback on the Roman pagan holiday of Saturnalia, which was the celebration of the winter solstice typically held on the 25th of December each year. Rather than buck the trend, the thought was, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." As a result, Christians have been worshipping the birth of the Savior, the Son of God, on December 25 since then. It is a holy day to be sure, but don't miss the purpose of His birth in the midst of all the fun, food, and fellowship.

Christ came to earth to be a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He is the perfect lamb that shed His blood over three decades after Mary delivered Him in an animal food trough, in a stable, behind a Jewish Motel 1. He is God with us--Emmanuel. His life was sinless, and He gave it up willingly so men, women, boys, and girls would have a way to escape eternal separation from the Creator. He is the Great I Am. No matter what your religious philosophy or beliefs may be--you're not gonna make it without a personal relationship with Him. That's a given.

So, it's okay to join in the celebrations, the parties, the concerts, the caroling, the food, the memories of Christmases past, the family reunions, the friends, the gifts, the movies and TV shows that Hallmark and others produce showing happy endings, Santa Claus (the Spirit of Christmas), and all the rest -- within moderation of course. And you shouldn't feel guilty about it, unless you overindulge. Then, that is a problem. But, remember, when you pause and give thanks for the gifts you have given and received this Christmas, it's not about all of these things. It's about Him, the real Reason for the Season.

Merry Christmas!

Until next time.

1 comment:

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