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Stamping out stories

This year’s religious Christmas stamp shows “Joseph, Mary and Jesus escaping Herod’s wrath by fleeing to Egypt. Joseph leads the donkey carrying Mary and the swaddled infant Christ, while in the background Herod’s pursuing soldiers encounter a peasant tending a wheat crop. A legend relates how a field of wheat miraculously grew as the Holy Family passed. When questioned by the soldiers, the peasant could truthfully say that the trio went by when his crop was planted. Thinking they must be far ahead, the soldiers then abandoned the chase.”

Nice story, but little connection with history, that is, the part about the spiritually-modified wheat. And while the legend certainly warms the heart, like mulled wine on a cold winter’s night, it unfortunately dulls the brain, just like the aforesaid wine. Worse, it assigns the Christmas story to the realm of sentimental fiction, instead of true history and life-saving fact.

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said the Apostle Peter, “but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Admittedly Peter may not have witnessed the whole gamut of Jesus’ infant years, but he speaks in the plural, and no doubt includes those who were privy to the stories surrounding that first Christmas. The real heart and meaning of Christmas is hard enough to see as it is, without decorating it with another layer of medieval mistletoe. And O that its good news might shine this year, despite the stamp that sends it through the mail.

DM 3rd December 2019

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