Category Archives: Jesus Christ

Issue 373 – Six Freebies for You

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The Paregien Journal  —  Issue 373  —  Feb. 24, 2018  —  Published Occasionally

Six Freebies for You

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I have a number of free documents posted on my Google Drive storage account in a public folder.They are all in the popular PDF format, and all you have to do to read them is to go to the link below.

In addition, you may download any or all of them to your own PC’s hard drive . . . or upload them to your own cloud storage. One big advantage of a cloud account – such as Apple – iCloud; Google – Drive; Microsoft Outlook – OneDrive; etc. – is this: then you will be able to access that material through your PC, your tablet, your laptop, your smartphone, and so forth.

Here are the items I’ve posted there so far:

  1. Evelyn Cauthen Paregien Spradling: Her Story  (1922-2011)

Article cover -- 1975 Photo of Evelyn Paregien Spradling

This is my personal tribute to my mother. I completed this 179 page document and released it on the 7th anniversary of her death – Feb. 23, 2011. This is a remarkable story of her growing up in south-central Oklahoma during the Great Depression, the daughter of dirt-poor sharecroppers, getting married and moving to California where life became a whole lot easier and better. I worked hard to let her love, faith and integrity clearly show. 

This essay really amounts to a book, since it is 180 pages long. It contains well over 300 photos and documents, mainly from her total of 30+ years in Oklahoma and 52 years in Ventura County, California. Many of the stories and photos relate, specifically to towns in which we lived: Santa Paula, Fillmore, Piru and Newhall (in Los Angeles County).

  1. An Open Letter to Christian Friends  (May 18, 1972)

Book cover -- 02 - Open Letter -- May 18, 1972

This document will be of special interest to who grew up in (or are still in) religious groups which grew out of the “Restoration Movement” which started in the United States in about 1804 and rapidly grew. It was a recognition that followers of Christ by those days had divided into warring factions, and an effort to unite those Believers by using the Bible (not denominational creeds and disciples) as the standard for work and worship.

I wrote this letter to a few dozen friends way back on May 18, 1972 to explain why Peggy and I were changing from one Christian segment to another. Then in 2018 I rediscovered the letter and added an explanatory preface and a list of resources. It may also be of historical interest to those who study . . . or have to deal with . . . divisions within Christianity.

One of the factors in our leaving the group we’d been part of for our whole lives was their theological position regarding the use of instrumental music in worship. They were a’gin it. That is, they favored a cappella (voices only) in worship. There are other churches who advocate the same thing, though maybe not was loudly as we did. But that is only a part of the equation, as you will read.

  1. The Day Jesus Died (eBook in 2013)

1968-001 Cover of The Day Jesus Died

This book was published as a hardback in Austin, Texas in 1970. Back then I was a minister, first with the University Church of Christ in Las Cruces, New Mexico and then with the Mayfair Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It was a collection of my sermons and magazine articles. It went out of print, but in 2012 or so I started revising many of the chapters. So, as with the more than a dozen other eBooks of mine, you may find them and buy them by simply Googling “books by Stan Paregien.” This PDF copy, however, is free.

  1. Oklahoma Almanac of Facts & Humor: Part 1

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Published: May 21, 2013. Category: Nonfiction. Foreword by the Honorable George Nye, former Governor of Oklahoma. This eBook is Part 1 of 2 containing facts about the state of Oklahoma. Part 1 covers Achille to Nowata. It is not your grandpa’s boring history book. The author starts by telling the unique stories of 148 towns, including those which are a county seat in one of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. He includes photos, prominent people and humorous stories. Part 1 covers such towns as Ada, Atoka, Broken Arrow, Catoosa, Chandler, Claremore, Clinton, Del City, Durant, Eufaula, Elk City, Erick, Lawton, McAlester, Midwest City, Moore, and Norman.

  1. Manatee County, Florida: Facts, Folks and Photos

 

Master Cover -- Manatee County, FL -- Stan Paregien 01 1,900 X 2,561 X 600 dpi

This eBook is a combination of one part travel guide for the beaches and other attractions in Manatee County, one part who’s who of today’s leaders and yesterday’s heroes and heroines, one part family photo album, and one part a history book containing over 450 photos and 470 biographical sketches. It is written in a conversational style with touches of wit, wisdom, mystery and spice. There’s all kinds of factual information about our beautiful beaches and our vibrant history. But you’ll want to spent a lot of time in Chapter 3. There you’ll see photos and biographical sketches of hundreds of Manatee County people. Learn why the heck we do things like we do them (Hint: “Because that’s how grandma and grandpa used to do it.”) You’ll meet some of our wonderful pioneer families, a great many solid citizens, plus a lot of folks who work doggoned hard to make this County an even better place to live or to visit.

  1. A List of Stan Paregien’s eBooks

This lists the 16 eBooks by Stan Paregien which are available at various retailers online. Also a brief bio.

Here’s the magic link for any or all of the above:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1AYwU8g8IZo9v4nwXIBnDaXrpqmd6InRI

PLEASE NOTE:  The link above is subject to being changed at any time without notice.

Happy reading, my friends.

— Stan Paregien

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Issue 371 – Christmas Truces in 1914

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The Paregien Journal     –     Issue 371     –     December 8, 2017

A true story worth sharing . . . 

Christmas Truces in 1914:

Peace in the Trenches of World War I

 by Stan Paregien

Copyrighted Dec. 8, 2017

War and Peace - The Christmas Truce on Dec 25, 1914 During World War I - painting in the ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS - Jan, 1915

World War I began as a dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia on July 28, 1914, but soon involved many countries of the world. It pitted the “Allied Forces” such as Serbia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Ireland, Italy, Japan and Russia against the so-called “Central Powers” such as Serbia, Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. The United States did not officially join the Allied forces until 1917.  Many journalists and politicians billed this military struggle as “the war to end all wars.” By the end of World War I on November 11, 1918 , some 25 million people – soldiers and civilians – had been killed or serious injured. And when the smoke cleared, no one saw it as an antidote to future wars.

By November of 1914, all allusions about this war being a short one were gone. Along the Western Front, each side was dug-in to fortified, well-defended trenches and underground tunnels. This had become a war of attrition, depression and sometimes boredom.

1915--War--World War 2 -- digging trenches

War--WW 1 -- British solders on the Western Front opposite Germans - slighly damp trench -- 01

War--WW 1 -- Map of the Western Front in 1914

However, a striking example of human decency and goodwill took place mainly on the Western Front between some of the British troops and some of the opposing German troops just five months after the war had started in Europe. One hour these young soldiers were trying to kill their enemies in their trenches often less than a hundred yards away. Each army was hunkered down in their respective muddy trenches, cold and lonely and experiencing a mixture of fear and courage.

1915--War--World War 2 -- military-- medical -- shellshock

It was shortly just before midnight on Christmas Eve that a series of purely spontaneous and often unauthorized truces broke out along the long battle line. Most believe it was the German boys who started it when they stopped firing their rifles and machine guns and artillery. As that awkward peace lingered, those German troops began singing Christmas songs. In a few places, some even accompanied the singing with harmonicas or bugles.

Naturally, the leaders of the British troops were at first skeptical of this “truce” and viewed it as a trick to lull them into a false sense of security. But it wasn’t that at all. Soon, here and there along the Western Front, British troops began singing out their own Christmas carols with both pleasure and gusto. Their own musicians kicked in with whatever instruments they had at their disposal. And the Germans began yelling out in their own language or even in broken English, “Merry Christmas.” And the British troops in those spots along the war zone responded with their own shouts of “Merry Christmas to all.”

1914 -- World War 1 - German soldiers with an Xmas tree and singing carols

That kind of activity lasted through the early morning hours of Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 1914. Then just after dawn, amazingly, a handful of young German troops stood up with their arms outstretched to show they were not armed. After a few minutes they slowly walked toward the opposing troops and across “no-man’s land.” Just as bravely, a few of the British troops crawled out of their trenches and walked toward the Germans with their own arms outstretched in a sign of friendship. The two groups met in the middle ground, shook hands and even embraced in generous expressions of friendship. In a few minutes, many others from both sides joined the group standing exposed in the middle of the battlefield. They sang Christmas songs with the same melodies, but their different languages. And they laughed. A lot. A few even brought out leather-bound soccer balls and the two sides played “kick ball” or “kick about.”

1914 -- World War 1 - British and German soldiers sharing a Christmas tree

It was during these brief but enthusiastic kick ball competitions that the Germans got both an education and a chuckle or two. In one location there was a regiment of British troops from Scotland and they wore their traditional kilts on the battlefield. A German lieutenant, Johannes Niemann, years later recalled the scene this way:

1914--War--World War1 -- Scottish & German solders playing kick ball on Xmas Day

“Us Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts—and hooted and whistled every time they caught an impudent glimpse of one posterior belonging to one of ‘yesterday’s enemies.’ But after an hour’s play, when our Commanding Officer heard about it, he sent an order that we must put a stop to it. A little later we drifted back to our trenches and the fraternization ended.”

Scottish soldiers in kilts in 1915 during WW 1

This entirely impromptu show of the brotherhood of man soon had them exchanging small gifts – perhaps a coin from their own respective currency, chocolate bars, military dress buttons, a pack of cigarettes, a can of peaches or plum pudding, a spare patch of their military unit or whatever they had at hand. In a few instances, prisoners were even exchanged and each side given time to bury their dead. This scene was repeated in many places along the Western war front as spontaneous gestures of goodwill, if only for a day.

Peace in the trenches, what a marvelous Christmas gift.

Of course, not all units of either Army participated in the truces. Some never even heard of them, since they were spontaneous and unauthorized beyond low-level officers right there in the field. Others among  both the German and the British sides actually opposed such unauthorized fraternization with the enemy. When reports of these truces and fraternization reached the higher commanders, stern rebukes were issued and penalties imposed for such unauthorized actions. One of those who stood opposed to such truces was the French military leader Charles de Gaulle, and another was a young German officer named . . . Adolph Hitler of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry. 

Meanwhile, away from the actual battlefields there were pockets of anti-war protestors who saluted the spontaneous truces but protested for far more. When the United States began drafting young men into the military in 1917, it was labor leader Eugene V. Debs who opposed it and was sent to a Federal prison until 1920. Bertrand Russell, one of Britain’s leading intellectuals, spoke out against the war and spent six-months in a London jail for his efforts. Likewise, Rosa Luxemburg was an anti-war German leader who was imprisoned for two years for her protests.

Also, unfortunately, even on that Christmas day in 1914 killing and dying took place not far from some of those truce celebrations. Here are two examples.

In the darkness just before dawn, near the French village of Festubert—just a half-mile from some of the truce celebrations, several German soldiers hoisted lamps up above their trenches. “Those lamps looked like Chinese lanterns” some said. Then they called out to their British counterparts across the no man’s land. The men shouted out an offer for a day of mutual piece on this Christmas day. A British officer, thinking it was a ruse, ordered his men to shoot out those glowing lamps and they did. The German troops got the message, dismissed their generous overture to the British, and had their own short period of singing Christmas carols.

 

Huggins, Percy - British soldier killed on Dec 25, 1914 -- 02

Photo of  Private Percy Huggins

(1) So it was that later that day  a  23-year old private from England named Percy Huggins (1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment ) was at his assigned post.  It was business as usual on his part of the Western Front. He was stationed on the line less than a hundred  yards from a German  trench   Private Huggins peeked over the mound of dirt in front of his own trench and that is when a German sniper fired a fatal bullet through his head.

(2) The men of Huggins’ regiment were enraged by his killing on this Christmas day. Immediately, his platoon Sergeant, Tom Gregory, demanded and received permission to take his comrade’s position to give him a chance at avenging his friend’s death. Sgt. Gregory, was 36-years old and an expert marksman himself. Back home in Watford, England he had worked for the postal service. On this frigid day he lay still on the frost covered dirt and soon saw the German sniper and killed him with one shot. Instantly, he detected the movement of another sniper but before he could aim his own rifle the second sniper shot and killed him.

These two British soldiers were among  their 149 fellow soldiers who lost their lives on that Christmas day in 1914 (some who died that day had had  previously-inflicted battle wounds). And, of course, a number of German troops – like the one sniper mentioned above — were killed on that day as well.

By 1915, both sides had perfected new technologies of killing their enemies such a machine guns and tanks. One of the most frightening weapons, but not terribly efficient, was the release of poison gas, a tactic used by both the Allied Forces and the Cenral  Powers. By 1917, both sides were experiencing  sharp increases in deaths and carnage. So, not surprisingly, all sides demonized their opponents. And no more opportunities occurred for such spontaneous truces as those in 1914.

Still, those amazing displays of brotherhood and humanity between opposing troops on Christmas day in 1914 are still poignant reminders of what can happen between people of goodwill. That unique day has inspired poems like that of Carol Ann Duffy (Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom) in 2013 titled “The Christmas Truce” and songs like “Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon in 1984, as well as scores of articles like this one you’re reading and dozens of books like scholar Adam Hochschild’s volume titled To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.

So let’s all stop for a moment, making our own truce in the middle of our busy lives. Is there a person or a group of people with whom you have had difficulties that you might take a first step of peace . . . and perhaps of reconciliation? 

The apostle Paul certainly was echoing the ministry of Jesus when he wrote in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Maybe you could break the ice between you and an estranged relative . . . or between you and a group of people . . . or between your congregation (or club or organization) and another by handing key people a copy of this article. And say something to the effect that you’d like to stop shooting at each other and have a truce, with a view toward lasting peace.

My hope is the examples of these warring troops who reached out to each other on Christmas day in 1914 will motivate us to establish our own spontaneous truces where the influence of the Prince of Peace is desperately needed.

Sources:

Bajekal, Naina. “Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914.” Published online by Time magazine at: http://time.com/3643889/christmas-truce-1914/. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017.

Brown, Malcolm and Shirley Seaton. The Christmas Truce: The Western Front December 1914. London: Papermac, 1994.

“Christmas is for Sharing.” This was a Christmas-time ad (video) which was produced in 2014 as a TV commercial by the Sainsbury’s chain of grocery stores in the eastern United State. You may view it on YouTube at:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KHoVBK2EVE

“Christmas Truce.” Wikipedia, accessed on Dec. 1, 2017. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_truce)

“Christmas truce of 1914 was broken when German snipers killed two British soldiers.”

Posted to the web site of the London Telegraph newspaper on Dec. 22, 2014 near the 100th anniversary of this event. Accessed Dec. 2, 2017 at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/11307513/Christmas-truce-of-1914-was-broken-when-German-snipers-killed-two-British-soldiers.html ]

Cleaver, Alan and Lesley Park (eds.). The Christmas Truce 1914: Operation Plum Puddings, accessed December 22, 2011.  

Dash, Mike. “The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce.” An article for the Smithsonian Museum Magazine which was published on their web site on Dec. 23, 2011. Accessed on Dec. 2, 2017 at:  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-story-of-the-wwi-christmas-truce-11972213/   

Ferro, Marc and‎ Malcolm Brown and‎ Rémy Cazals and Olaf Mueller. Meetings in No Man’s Land: Christmas 1914 and Fraternization in the Great War. London: Constable & Robinson, 2007.

Cleaver, Alan and Lesley Park.  Not a Shot was Fired: Letters from the Christmas Truce 1914.  Alan Cleaver, Publisher. 2nd Edition in full color, 2008.

“Christmas Truce of 1914,” a video.  History.com   Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017 online at: http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914

Hochschild, Adam. To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918. New York: Mariner Books by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

Kuper, Simon. “Soccer in the trenches: Remembering the WWI Christmas Truce.”  Published on the ESPN sports web site on Dec. 25, 2015. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017 at: http://www.espn.com/soccer/blog/espn-fc-united/68/post/2191045/christmas-truce-soccer-matches-during-world-war-one.

Rees, Simon. “The Christmas Truce.” Published online on Aug. 22, 2009 at http://firstworldwar.com/features/christmastruce.htm . Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017. “First World War.com” bills itself as “a multimedia history of World War One.”

Snow, Dan.  “What really happened in the Christmas truce of 1914?”  A presentation on the British Broadcasting Company’s TV channel. Accessed Dec. 1, 2017 online at

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zxsfyrd.

“The Christmas Truce.” A song written by John McKutcheon in 1984 about the truces in the trenches of World War I along the Western Front in Europe. See and hear him perform his song on YouTube at: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=chords+for+the+song%2c+%22Christmas+in+the+Trenches%22&&view=detail&mid=2E284897E6744A13B6DE2E284897E6744A13B6DE&&FORM=VDRVRV

Twitter, Jon Wiener. “The Day the Troops Refused to Fight: December 25, 1914.”  Published in the online version of The Nation magazine on Dec. 23, 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of this remarkable day. Accessed on Dec. 1, 2017 at:

https://www.thenation.com/article/day-troops-refused-fight-december-25-1914/ ]

Weintraub, Stanley. “Demystifying the Christmas truce.” The Heritage of the Great War.  __________.  Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce Of 1914. London: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

“World War I.” Wikipedia. Accessed on Dec. 1, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I.

 

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Some Thoughts on Cats and Dogs,

Candles, and Romans 14

 By Curtis K. Shelburne

Copyrighted Dec. 4, 2017

Getting ready. That’s what Advent is about.

At church we lit the first candle of Advent this morning, and, as I write on this Sunday evening, I’m sitting in a quiet house, enfolded by the warm glow of the light from our Christmas tree.

I didn’t grow up observing Advent or, for that matter, any of the other seasons of the “Christian calendar.” I was unaware that there was such a thing, and in our non- or anti-denomination denomination, there most certainly was not. I was blessed by “our” folks and still love them, but our bunch back then wasn’t even very sure about celebrating Christmas as a “religious” holiday. We weren’t the only ones. Chalk that, and a lot of this, up to our common Puritan ancestors, I think, who tended to be suspicious of both color and celebration.  But, honestly, I need to read more history to be sure I’m being fair with them.

As I grew older, I suppose I became vaguely aware that Lent was a time preceding Easter and, I thought, seemed to have something maybe to do with eating fish on Fridays. What else? I didn’t know.

As is the case with all of us pretty much all of the time, I needed very badly to learn a little more history to be able to make more sense out of the present and plot a wise course for the future. And, as a Christian, I desperately needed to read more church history for the very same reasons.

I also needed to learn some things other members of Christ’s family could teach me if we’d just try to cross over our walls occasionally and visit a bit. Not only do we honor our Lord by doing so (he prayed poignantly for the unity of God’s people, you know, in John 17), we also put ourselves in a position to learn some things. We might or might not choose to make some changes in our own situations, but at least we might come to understand more about the decisions and practices of other folks who love and honor their Lord every bit as much as our own little group does. The guy who said that cats and dogs who try spending more time with each other often find it to be a very broadening experience was on to something.

Differences among Christians regarding the keeping—or not—of special days is nothing new. When the Holy Spirit made it clear that God wanted the doors of his church opened wide to both Jews and Gentiles (the gulf between them was vastly wider than that between, say, a Baptist and a Lutheran) well, you never saw cats and dogs have a harder time figuring out how to live under one roof.

Ironically, then it was the more conservative folks who felt duty-bound to observe special feast days, and folks on the other end of the spectrum who felt perfectly free not to. Read the amazing Romans 14 to see God’s incredible counsel to his kids about dealing with differences. Don’t stand in judgment on each other, he says. Make a decision that you believe honors Christ. In love, let your brothers and sisters do the same. And don’t you kids dare look down on each other or try to make laws for one another! You’ve got one Master. You’re not him.

By the way, it turns out that Lent has precious little to do with fish. Advent does have something to do with candles (and I like candles). But both have a lot to do with preparing our hearts to more fully receive what God is doing. Personally, I like that a lot. Personally, I need that a lot.

[Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne of Muleshoe, TX. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice. You’re invited to visit his website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com ]

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Issue 348 – This Land Is Your Land

 

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Issue 348     –    February 6, 2017

This Land Is Your Land

I did not watch the Super Bowl football game on Feb. 5, 2017. Half-time entertainer Lady Gaga seems to have gotten favorable reviews from lots of folks. I did catch a news clip of her singing a portion of Woody Guthrie’s popular song, “This Land Is Your Land.” It is a populist, kind of get-together-and-sing-Kumbaya song. 

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However, as the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, . . . here is the rest of the story.

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I made the following statements about the history of the song, “This Land Is Your Land.” in my 2012 eBook, WOODY GUTHRIE: HIS LIFE, MUSIC AND MYTH (Chapter 5):  

“On Feb. 23, 1940, Woody wrote ‘This Land Is Your Land’ while living with friend and fellow folksinger Burl Ives at the Hanover House in New York City. He wrote it to counteract what he considered the mindless sentimentality of ‘God Bless America,’ penned by the great Irving Berlin. That song just really irritated him something awful.

“Slowly but surely he worked out the words of his own song and, as usual, simply matched the lyrics up with an existing song. In this case it was the melody of a gospel song, ‘Oh, My Loving Brother,’ a melody that was also borrowed by the Carter Family for their song, ‘Little Darling, Pal of Mine’. Woody titled his song, ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and pretty much forgot about it until April of 1944.

“When the song finally surfaced and was recorded, it only included the first four verses (see below). And it quickly gained traction. Today the first few verses are sung by people all over the world, sometimes with a few adaptations to fit the Canadian or Japanese or Irish or whatever culture. It has been recorded by virtually everyone under the sun, from Bing Crosby to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. In the 1960s President Lyndon Baines Johnson was one of the first to wonder if maybe it should replace our national anthem. And various big-name corporations, including United Airlines and the Ford Motor Company, have used bits of it for their sales pitches on TV and radio.

“Here is how those first four verses read:

1   This land is your land, This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

 2  As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

 3  I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

 4  When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

“The problem with most of the admiration for this song is that the four-verses-only version hides or at least ignores the whole point of the complete song. With all of its verses intact, ‘This Land is Your Land’ stands as a Marxist chant for communal property. Here is how those last three verses read:

5   As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

6   In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

7  Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

“Now, go back and read the first line of the first verse. Doesn’t it take on a much darker meaning? It should because this song is, in fact, radical leftist Guthrie’s most clear challenge to life as most American’s know it.

“He understood that private property rights were, more often than not in the United States, used by land-owning corporations to put down the workers. They and their henchmen, the courts and law enforcement, constantly trampled on workers’ constitutional-granted rights of freedom of speech and freedom to assemble.

“So he was calling on people to join the fight against the concept of private ownership of property which, historically, has been the lynchpin of American politics and economics. Woody reasoned that he was taking the high moral ground in advocating that all Americans should share equally in America’s wealth and property.

“Keep in mind, too, that one of the reasons Guthrie wrote this song was to protest the idealism of the big hit song of 1939-1940, ‘God Bless America.’ And it is in verse 6 that he makes the point that the America he saw, from sea to shining sea, was filled with poor and unemployed people standing in welfare lines. And he felt that capitalism and its innate greed were responsible for the awful situation in which there was a great gulf between the bankers and the guys digging ditches or even those who just wish they had a job of any kind. So nothing would change—the poor will continue to be with us en mass—until we change capitalism to communism. And, though not stated in the song, it was his belief that the labor movement—and unions, in particular—could accomplish that goal.

 “Was Woody a Communist Party Member?

 “Was Woody Guthrie a member of the official Communist Party or was he just a sympathizer on the outside looking in or was he just a guy who sympathized and identified with poor, hard-hit people and sought help from any source?

“Guy Logsdon expressed his point of view when I interviewed him in 2006: ‘Woody loved the United States of America. He loved Oklahoma. And he loved Okemah. He never wrote anything bad against them. He wrote against greed and anything having to do with the suppression of innocent people. If that makes him a Communist, then Jesus was a Communist. Woody was the poet philosopher of the people, the voice of the ordinary person.

“’However, Woody was not radical enough to be a communist. The Almanac Singers, some of whom later became stars as a group called The Weavers, wrote and performed pro-labor and anti-war songs. You know Franklin Roosevelt had a program to rebuild the economy and get production and prices stabilized. It involved killing every fourth cow and plowing under every fourth acre. So the Almanac Singers recorded a song called, ‘Plow Under Every Fourth Soldier’ in protest to the war. That offended a lot of people.

“’And the public sentiment changed radically when Germany waged war against Russia. So the Almanac Singers dropped that song from their programs very quickly. And they started writing and performing anti-Hitler songs.

“’When Woody went to New York City, he was in awe of what they were doing. And he sometimes attended meetings of the Communist Party but, as Pete Seeger has often said, ‘Woody was not a Communist. The Communist Party was a tightly structured organization. And Woody Guthrie wouldn’t join anything like that, because his nature was too independent and unstructured.’”

“Perhaps so. But as we have quoted previously, Woody made that admission or assertion of membership himself. And he did it in what my dear ol’ English teacher at Fillmore (California) High School—Mrs. Percy—would call a simple declarative sentence: “The best thing I did in 1936 [he got the actual date wrong; it was 1939] was to sign up with the Communist Party . . . ” (see Chapter 4.)

“When all views are heard, it seems clear that Woody Guthrie was at the least a solid sympathizer and supporter of the Communist Party. He was a man of his times, and those times were very hard for the working class. So whether he was a card-carrying member of the Party seems immaterial today. And it seems to me that, in the final analysis, Guthrie really had more faith in the unions than he did in Communism. In 1944 he said, ‘I live union. I eat union. I think union. I see union. I walk it and I talk it. I sing it and I preach it’ (Quoted by Ed Cray, Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie [2011], page 283).

 “Well, as I said, he filed the song away and pretty much forgot about it for several years. But it would finally end up as his signature song and in its four-verse form one of the most sung songs in the world.”

One more thing. The big news right now is about our immigration and deportation policies (or lack thereof). It is old news, really.

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Woody Guthrie had a big place in his heart for the frequently abused immigrant workers and their families. He spent a great deal of time traveling around to make-shift worker’s camps to listen to their problems and to encourage them with his songs. 

In 1948, an event happened that triggered a great deal of anger in Woody.  The U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Department had chartered a DC-3 airplane to deport back to Mexico both illegal immigrants and those Mexicans whose work permits had expired. They left Oakland, Calif., on Jan. 28th with 28 such deportees on board, plus the pilot, a co-pilot, a guard and a stewardess. The plane crashed in a ball of fire near Los Gatos, California.The news reports mentioned the staff members by name and said 28 deportees were also killed. No mention of their names, leaving the impression they were of no importance.

Guthrie took that as a personal insult and an outrage. He went into a writing frenzy, pouring his heart and soul in a song he titled, “Deportees” (also known as “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos”):

Plane Wreck at Los Gatos

(also known as “Deportees”)
by Woody Guthrie

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott’ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They’re flying ’em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be “deportees”

My father’s own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, “They are just deportees”

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except “deportees”?

Sad to say that the practice of devaluing other people is still alive and well. We often find fault with those who are different from ourselves — morally, culturally, racially, religiously and politically. The list goes on.

Now, friends, if you look at this thing strictly logically and scientifically (not morally or religiously) the woes and injustices to the poor, the weak and sickly and the disenfranchised should be of no concern to those of us who are winners in the lottery of life. After all, scientist Charles Darwin preached the survival of the fittest as being in the best interest of the world. So why should one glob of atoms (a human) give a flip about another glob (another human)? You know the routine: (1) Look out for Number 1; (2) What’s mine is mine and I’m after yours; (3) The real “Golden Rule” is that whoever has the gold rules; (4) Greed is good; and (5) Don’t get involved.

Well, . . . if you buy that premise, then it is kinda irrational to do otherwise, don’t you think? Maybe that’s why you’re never seen anywhere a hospital founded and funded by the American Association of Atheists. That’s why there are no major philanthropic foundations operated by the American Humanist Association. That’s what the Society for Humanistic Judaism sits around gazing at their navels. 

Thankfully, however, there are people of goodwill and generous acts of kindness in every group and country. Concern for others, whether a friend or a neighbor or an enemy, is still alive and well.

For example, loving concern is a fundamental theme in the sacred Jewish texts. Here is a sampling from Exodus 23:1-9: “(1) Don’t spread rumors. Don’t plot with evil people to act as a lying witness. (2) Don’t take sides with important people to do wrong. When you act as a witness, don’t stretch the truth to favor important people. (3) But don’t privilege unimportant people in their lawsuits either. (4) When you happen to come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey that has wandered off, you should bring it back to them. (5) When you see a donkey that belongs to someone who hates you and it’s lying down under its load and you are included not to help set it free, you must help set it free. (6) Don’t undermine the justice that your poor deserve in their lawsuits. (7) Stay away from making a false charge. Don’t put an innocent person who is in the right to death, because I will not consider innocent those who do such evil. (8) Don’t take a bribe, because a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. (9) Don’t oppress an immigrant. You know what it’s like to be an immigrant, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt.” — from the COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE (used with permission)

Christians, too, recognize their duty and honor to serve others who have hit hard times. John the Baptist, who was in prison at the time, sent word to this new teacher named Jesus and asked him for some proof that the was the longed-for Messiah. Jesus did not cite as evidence that he had formed a large anti-Roman army, nor that he had a large political campaign war chest, nor that the Who’s Who of Israel were his backers. Amazingly, Jesus told the messengers, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who are crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5, CEB)

A lawyer with the Pharisee sect of Judaism tried to trap Jesus one time by asking him what the greatest commandment was in the Law of Moses. Jesus said, ” (37) You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. (38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39) And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:37-39, CEB)

It is clear in both Judaism and in Christianity that love for others–not just a good feeling but positive, practical help–is fundamental to religious faith.

The apostle James chided his peers by saying, “(2) Imagine two people coming into your meeting. One has a gold ring and fine clothes, while the other is poor, dressed in filthy rags. (3) Then suppose that you were to take special notice of the one wearing fine clothes, saying, ‘Here’s an excellent place. Sit here.’ But to the poor person you say, ‘Stand over there’; or, ‘Here, sit at my feet.’ (4) Wouldn’t you have shown favoritism among yourselves and become evil-minded judges?

“(5) My dear brothers and sisters, listen! Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor by worldly standards to be rich in terms of faith? Hasn’t God chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him? (6) But you have dishonored the poor. Don’t the wealthy make life difficult for you? Aren’t they the ones who drag you into court? (7) Aren’t they the ones who insult the good name spoken over you at your baptism?

“(8) You do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:2-8, CEB)

That, my friends, is why you see hundreds of hospitals and universities and homes for the needy founded by and funded by the faith community. Highly respected Jewish hospitals and Christian hospitals are found across America, as are homes for the homeless and abused. Back in my old stomping ground, Oklahoma City, we had the Baptist Hospital, Deaconess Hospital (Methodist), and Mercy Hospital (Catholic), each of them a fine facility caring for anyone who walked through the door. Other religious organizations work every day to help migrants with legal work or with learning English, or helping pregnant women save their babies from abortions, or rescuing young men and women from sex traffickers and drug dealers. And the list of good works goes on and on.

“This Land is Your Land” is a nice song title and sorta give us a warm, fuzzy feeling. In fact, I have personally adapted it to create songs for the people of Rwanda (“Rwandans, This Land Is Our Land”), for the people of Honduras (“Hondurans, This Land Is Your Land”), and for the people of Ireland (“Ireland Is Your Land).  View videos of those songs and 50 others on my “Stan Paregien’s Studio” on YouTube at:https://www.youtube.com/user/CowboyStan/videos

My point is this: it takes that “good feeling” and $5.00 to get you a cup of java at Starbucks. Fact is, it is up to you and to me to look for opportunities to honor God by doing good wherever we go and by teaching others to do the same.  

So if you are looking for hope and purpose in your life, please take a serious look around you. Observe how your neighbors are living. Is it the Believers who are more happy and fulfilled . . . and busy helping others . . . or is it the Non-Believers? There are exceptions, of course, for no one is perfect in practicing their philosophy of life. But my 75+ years of experience has shown me that people of faith actually believe that history is headed somewhere and they are not just sitting hopelessly on a spinning earth.

Just sayin’.

[NOTE: My eBook, WOODY GUTHRIE: HIS LIFE, MUSIC AND MYTH, is available in seven popular formats at:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/StanParegien . You’ll find over a dozen more of my eBooks there as well. And before long there will be another one on the list, right now tentatively titled MANATEE COUNTY, FLORIDA: FACTS, FOLKS AND PHOTOS. Stay tuned.]

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Issue 343 – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

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Issue 343 – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – December 10, 2016

Lest I forget, let me say to all of you that Peggy and I wish for our family and our friends, as well as our followers around the world, a blessed Christmas Day. 

In this issue, I just want to share some Christmas-related poems, essays and cartoons. Happy reading.

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

(aka “A Visit from St. Nicholas “)

[A copy of the first publication of this poetic account of a child’s happy visit from St. Nicholas in the Troy (NY) Sentinel (1823) is reprinted and analyzed by English literature scholar MacDonald P. Jackson on the InterMedia Enterprises website. While authorship credit is debatable, some experts agree that the original poem was the work of a Mr. Henry Livingston (according to the Huffington Post).

[A later publication attributes the poem to writer Clement Clark Moore, who claimed to have written it in 1822. Unbeknownst to Moore, the poem was published anonymously in a newspaper in upstate New York in December 1823. Additionally, Moore, who was a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at General Theological Seminary in New York City, is thought to have written “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for his children, without any intention of publishing it. He first published it under his name in 1844 after others tried to take credit for it. So . . . the true authorship is debatable.

[Note: the following version is a modern English version, whereas the original was written in somewhat archaic English.]

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

 

 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

 While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

 And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

 Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

 

 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

 Away to the window I flew like a flash,

 Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

 

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

 But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

 

 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

 And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

 

 “Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!

 On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!

 To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

 Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

 

 As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

 With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

 

 And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

 As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

 

 He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

 And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

 A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

 And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

 

 His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

  

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

 

Santa Claus: Man or Myth?

by Stan Paregien Sr.

 

Here is the story of one man’s answer to be the classic childhood question as to whether Santa Claus is real or not. It is not the only answer, of course, and there are some who raise legitimate concerns about problems an answer like this might cause to children as they grow older. However, those issues are for another occasion. Right now we go back more than 100 years in time to see how one man dealt with the issue.

In September of 1897, a little girl wrote a letter to Mr. Francis P. Church, the editor of the New York Sun newspaper. She asked him to please answer an important question for her. And, after considering her dilemma for some time, on September 21, 1897, Mr. Church published the little girl’s question and gave his answer.

Here is what the little girl named Virginia wrote:

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“Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun [newspaper], it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus? — Virginia O’Hanlon, 115 West Ninety Fifth Street”

What the editor, Mr. Church, told her has become the most widely reprinted newspaper editorial in the entire English speaking world. It is an established part of Christmas folklore in many parts of the world. Here is what he said:

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“Viginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.

 

“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

“We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

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“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

“No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

You may be interested to learn that young Virginia O’Hanlon later earned a doctorate degree and spent her life teaching and serving as a school administrator. She died at the age of 81. Mr. Church, the newspaper editor, died in 1906 at the age of 67.

 

So far this editorial written in 1897 by Mr. Church is the only one ever set to music. That happened in 1932 when NBC radio commissioned and broadcasted a “Yes, Virginia” cantata set to classical music. On Dec. 8, 1991 a made-for-TV movie titled, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” was shown. It starred actors Richard Thomas (“John Boy Walton” in the TV series “The Waltons”), Ed Asner and tough-guy Charles Bronson.

In fact, the expression “Yes, Virginia, There Is A . . . ” has become a common way of saying that a certain thing or person is real and does exist. Such as, “Yes, Virginia, there is an honest politician.” Well, okay, that may not be the best example but you catch my drift.

There remains the deeper question of how or when children should be properly educated about such “make-believe” characters as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny Rabbit, and fairies tiptoeing through the tulips. One rather sarcastic and know-it-all eleven year old told a questioning younger child, “Aw, heck. Santa Claus is just like the Devil. He is your old man.”

That is probably not the best approach.

Here is a better one, especially when they suspect that their mom or dad is really Santa Claus. Just relax and be honest with them. Here is my general letter to kids about ol’ Santa, a letter that would be appropriate for most families:

“Dear Kids,

“You may be wondering whether Santa Claus is a real person under that red hat and long, white beard. Well, let me help you understand.

“First, your mom and dad are not Santa Claus. Oh, yes, they are the ones who shop for your gifts, pay for them, wrap them and put them under your Christmas tree. After all, a fat Santa couldn’t drag a big bag of gifts down a chimney. But when your parents do all of that it does not make them Santa Claus. And, you know what, their own parents and grandparents probably blessed them the same way with the legend about a wonderful man who was just full of love and generosity.

“The tradition of a Santa Claus is a wonderful experience for most families, but that doesn’t really make any of us Santa Claus. Playing like Santa is real, you see, is a fun way of reminding all of us — parents and children — that there are times when it is important to believe in things we cannot see with our eyes or touch with our hands or measure with a ruler. Things like love, God, trusting in others, cooperation in getting everything done, hope when life is hard, thankfulness for being together as family and friends, joy in giving to others and happiness in receiving gifts and best wishes from others.

That is really what the idea of Santa Claus is all about. Santa is an attitude, a happy and good way of thinking, rather than a person. The job of spreading cheer around the world is too big and wonderful for just one person to do. So most of us are part of “Team Santa.”

“Next year you can help us find the right gifts for other people, and you can enjoy wrapping them and giving them away. Maybe someday you will decide to bless your own children by passing on this tradition, but that choice will be entirely up to you.” 

 

Well, friends, I hope that is helpful to some of you.

Some of my Christian brothers and sisters may seriously object to “playing Santa” and putting an emphasis upon a mythical man rather than on “the reason for the season” – the birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Frankly, my wife and I went through a cycle of beliefs and behaviors when our children and grandchildren were young. Early on we observed a deep appreciation for this period as a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus and we included the Santa myth as something distinct from that holy celebration.

Then at some point we decided that the “distinct” part may not have been understandable at all by our children. So, much to the dismay of both sets of our parents, we went through one or two Christmases without Santa and without gifts. Then we returned to our normal practice.

So, . . . I would suggest adding this statement to the letter above for those Christians who are struggling with what to do:

“Kids, the reason we have this Christmas season at all is because of the birth of Jesus the Christ. Notice the spelling of Christmas: “Christ-mas.” We believe in Jesus as the baby born in Bethlehem, but we also believe in him as our savior, our hope for eternal life, our helper in this life. We have to tell you, because God wants us to tell the truth and not lie (1 Peter 3:10), that Santa is not any of these things.

 

“You see, when I was a boy we would play lots of games of make believe. Cowboys. Space travelers. Kings and queens. There were always good people and bad people in those kid games. But we knew they were not real or somehow magical. They were just for fun. That is how it is with Santa, too. So you can have fun with Santa, but God is for real and wants us to love him with all our hearts.”

Maybe that will help.

 

Now, for those who might be interested in reading alternative opinions about what to tell children about Santa Claus, here are some sources:

Brown, Laura Lewis. “Is It Okay to Lie About Santa?” PBS-Parents: http://www.pbs.org/parents/holidays/is-it-okay-lie-about-santa/

 Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? This is a 48-page booklet which is free upon request by writing to The United Church of God, P.O. Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254-1027.

Johnson, David Kyle. “The Santa Claus Lie Debate: Answering Objections.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/plato-pop/201312/the-santa-claus-lie-debate-answering-objections

Strobel, Lee.  The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger.

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1 Corinthians 13

(A Christmas Version)

by an unknown author

 
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just Another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend myriad holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

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Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

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Christmas Is Only As Strong

As Its Weakest Link

By Curtis K. Shelburne

I don’t usually think of Christmas and chains as going together, unless I’m reading about the ponderously-chained Ghost of Christmas Past who so terrorized old Ebenezer Scrooge! But I believe this to be true: Christmas is a “chain” which is only as strong as its weakest link.

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If Christmas deals only with lights and tinsel, egg nog and poinsettias (all of which I enjoy very much, I hope you understand), and the Yuletide joy and peace, love and good will, we sing about are just artificial twinkles and largely illusory light, then Christmas is a weak and pathetic thing which can’t possibly stand the test of life and time and which will fade a long time before the January sales (and credit card bills) end.

If Christmas has to do only with parties and good times, but nothing to do with hospital rooms and disgusting diagnoses . . . 

If Christmas has to do only with smiles and “Merry Christmases” and nothing to do with hope at a graveside . . .

If Christmas has to do only with sales and not souls, presents and not His Presence, holiday cheer but not lifelong Joy . . .

If Christmas has to do only with Jingle Bells and nothing to do with “God with us,” well, then, Christmas is not up to the task of making a real difference in our lives, and it’s just one more momentary diversion for the despairing, one more false hope for people who know no hope, and it certainly won’t make much difference in life, or in death, or in anything at all very real or substantial.

But if Christmas, and all that is best about this good season, points to real light and hope, glimmering reflections from the Father of Lights, the Giver of Joy, the Sender of the very best Gift, then the Christ of Christmas can use this time of celebration to point us to light that truly is stronger than darkness, hope that is genuinely stronger than despair, and life that is ultimately and infinitely stronger than death. 

Then we discover that the Light of Christmas is real indeed because He is real, and life is far more substantial than death.

Then Christmas means something beautiful and wonderful and real. And Christmas joy can and will last forever.

[Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice. You are invited to visit his website at http://www.curtissheldburne.com. ]

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A Christmas Remembrance
By Carolyn B. Leonard

For people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, the holidays are often a daunting and difficult time of year. The Holiday season will be not as bright for families who have lost someone or something precious. One of my writer friends who lost her husband in 2012 described it as a year of “unmitigated Hell.” 

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In my tiny rural no-stoplight hometown of Buffalo up near the Kansas border, the home-owned and operated Wilkinson funeral home is doing something to help this season. They are preparing lovely glass angel ornaments which will be personalized with the name of each person they took care of this year. In a special “Christmas In Heaven” program at a church, the personalized Guardian Angel ornaments will then be presented to the family to be placed on their own Christmas tree or otherwise displayed in remembrance of the loved one for years to come.

Not just the immediate family, but the entire town and county are invited to participate in this opportunity to remember and honor all those lost this past year — because in a community like Buffalo it really does take a village to raise a child, and each soul has played a special role in every life. This program will give them the chance to publicly acknowledge their share of the loss.

It is always better to talk about grief and deal with it directly than to ignore or suppress it. When our first grandchild was killed in a car accident just before Christmas the whole community grieved with us. It was a horrible time for our family giving up that beloved and precious toddler, but knowing our grief was shared helped ease our pain. Friends, neighbors, acquaintances – not knowing what else to do – came with tearful hugs, flowers, and casseroles. Those gifts of love, but even more their comforting presence at that time, will never be forgotten.

Everyone feels a little awkward and are unsure what to say, but I liked to hear — “I heard about what happened …I can’t imagine what this has been like for you.” Each broken-hearted person feels their grief is unimaginable, their life has been changed forever. The word ‘imagine’ implies that whatever the griever says will be accepted, not judged or criticized. And then you can do the most important and helpful thing ever … just listen.

The stages of mourning and grief are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss. The seven emotional stages of grief are disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance or hope. There is no neat progression from one stage to the next and no set timetable.

The stages we must work through also apply to the loss of a job, a loved pet, a friendship, a marriage, health, or any other negative effect that changed your life. We all know about the collective grief that envelops everyone touched by tragedies such as the Murrah Bombing, the senseless 9-11 deaths, the spring tornado disaster, those life-changing events when everyone mourns. It takes a long time, but healing comes – very slowly, but it comes and you move on.

As you start to adjust to life without that part that is missing, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. You can finally move to acceptance.


Acceptance does not imply happiness. Instead, you can now remember and think about the loved one with sadness, but without that wrenching, intense emotional pain.

Holidays and events filled with tradition can be especially hard to deal with. Death is a topic everyone wants to avoid, even tho the unfortunate truth is that at some point we will all be faced with the uncomfortable reality of loss. Cherish the memories associated with the event, and with the person who is gone. Perhaps a glass ornament Guardian Angel, inscribed with the person’s name, is just the trick you need to find some joy in a Christmas remembrance.

[ Note: The above article was written by our dear Christian friend, Carolyn B. Leonard, of Oklahoma City. Our relationship dates all the way back to about 1985. And for a time we both worked for the same company as newspaper editors, she in Buffalo, Okla., and I in Meade, Kansas. Carolyn is also the author of a helpful book on genealogy. It has the catchy title of Who’s Your Daddy? ]

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Prelude to Christmas Prayer

by Don Betts

Bradenton, FL – Dec., 2013

 Our house is your house, we wish you good cheer,

On this special day we’re glad that you’re here!

Christmas is a time of special reflection,

And to some, a day of great expectation.

 

Our thoughts are mostly of friends and family together,

Without grievous thoughts or fear of the weather.

At our house its always a beautiful day.

So we now take a moment to pray.

 

Let’s pray for peace, tranquility and accord,

And ask a special blessing as we give thanks to our Lord.

Lets be happy with His blessings.

That come in such abundance.

And rid ourselves of earthly things

That come with such redundance.

 

Lord help us to love one another

To be to each  other, sister and brother.

Help us to know, with all due reason

The true meaning of this special season.

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The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus

by Ogden Nash

APR 1 1959, APR 2 1959; Ogden Nash; Americans too serious.;“Frederic Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971) was an American poet well known for his light verse. At the time of his death in 1971, The New York Times said his “droll
verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry”.[1] Nash wrote over 500 pieces of comic verse. The best of his work was published in 14 volumes between 1931 and 1972.” – Wikipedia Dec. 8, 2016.

 

In Baltimore there lived a boy.

He wasn’t anybody’s joy.

Although his name was Jabez Dawes,

His character was full of flaws.

 

In school he never led his classes,

He hid old ladies’ reading glasses,

His mouth was open when he chewed,

And elbows to the table glued.

 

He stole the milk of hungry kittens,

And walked through doors marked,

“NO ADMITTANCE.”

He said he acted thus because

There wasn’t any Santa Claus.

 

Another trick that tickled Jabez

Was crying “Boo!” at little babies.

He brushed his teeth, they said in town,

Sideways instead of up and down.

 

Yet people pardoned every sin,

And viewed his antics with a grin,

Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,

“There isn’t any Santa Claus!”

 

Deploring how he did behave,

His parents swiftly sought their grave.

They hurried through the portals pearly,

And Jabez left the funeral early.

 

Like whooping cough, from child to child,

He sped to spread the rumor wild:

“Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes

There isn’t any Santa Claus!”

 

Slunk like a weasel of a marten

Through nursery and kindergarten,

Whispering low to every tot,

“There isn’t any, no there’s not!”

 

The children wept all Christmas eve

And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.

No infant dared hang up his stocking

For fear of Jabez’ ribald mocking.

 

He sprawled on his untidy bed,

Fresh malice dancing in his head,

When presently with scalp-a-tingling,

Jabez heard a distant jingling.

 

He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof

Crisply alighting on the roof.

What good to rise and bar the door?

A shower of soot was on the floor.

 

What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?

The fireplace full of Santa Claus!

Then Jabez fell upon his knees

With cries of “Don’t,” and “Pretty Please.”

He howled, ‘I don’t know where you read it,

But anyhow, I never said it!’

 

“Jabez” replied the angry saint,

“It isn’t I, it’s you that ain’t.

Although there is a Santa Claus,

There isn’t any Jabez Dawes!”

 

Said Jabez then with impudent vim,

“Oh, yes there is, and I am him!

“Your magic don’t scare me, it doesn’t.”

And suddenly he found he wasn’t!

 

From grimy feet to grimy locks,

Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,

An ugly toy with springs unsprung,

Forever sticking out his tongue.

 

The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;

They searched for him, but not with zeal.

No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,

Which led to thunderous applause,

And people drank a loving cup

And went and hung their stockings up.

 

All you who sneer at Santa Claus,

Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,

The saucy boy who mocked the saint.

Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.

christmas-mistake-in-santas-order-for-more-elves-2

 

Christmas Trivia Questions

 

  1. After leaving Bethlehem, to which country did Joseph, Mary, and Jesus travel?

          Answer: Egypt

  1. Every elf has this ornament on the tip of their shoes. Which ornament are we talking about?     Answer: a bell
  1. Name the eight original Reindeer.   Answer:  Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dasher, Prancer,    Vixen, Dancer, and Donner
  1. How does a Mexican sheep say “Merry Christmas”? Answer: “Fe-leece Navidad”
  1. Which country is credited with the creation of the Christmas beverage, eggnog?

          Answer: Turkey

  1. Which country does St. Nicholas originally belong to? Answer: Norway
  1. Which was the first state in the United States to recognize Christmas as an official holiday?  Answer:  Alabama
  1. Here is a two-part question about the song, “White Christmas.” (1) In what movie did it first appear . . . and (2) what year did the movie appear?   

          Answers:  “Holiday Inn” in 1942

  1. James Stewart & Donna Reed starred in “It’s A Wonderful Life” in what year?

          Answer: 1946

  1. In that same movie, what was the first name of the angel? Answer:  Clarence

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

(Brooklyn Version)

 The author cannot be identified because

he is in a witness protection program.

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 ‘Twas the night before Christmas,

Da whole house was mellow,

Not a creature was stirrin’,

I had a gun unda my pillow.

 

When up on da roof’

I heard somethin’ pound,

I sprung to da window,

To scream, “YO! Keep it down!”

 

When what to my Wanderin’

eyes should appear,

But dat hairy elf Vinny,

And eight friggin’ reindeer.

 

Wit’ a bad hackin’ cough,

And da stencha burped beer,

I knew in a moment

Yo, da Kringle wuz here!

 

Wit’ a slap to dere snouts,

And a yank on dere manes,

He cursed and he shouted,

And he called dem by name.

 

“Yo Tony, Yo Frankie,

Yo Sally, Yo Vito,

Ay Joey, Ay Paulie,

Ay Pepe, Ay Guido!”

 

As I drew out my gun

And hid by da bed,

Down came his boot

On da top a my head.

 

His eyes were all bloodshot,

His body odor wuz scary,

His breath wuz like sewage,

He had a mole dat wuz hairy.

 

He spit in my eye,

And he twisted my head,

He soon let me know

I should consider myself dead.

 

Den pointin’ a fat finga

Right unda my nose,

He let out some gas,

And up da chimney he rose.

 

He sprang to his sleigh,

…..screaming,

And away dey all flew,

Before he troo dem a beatin’.

 

But I heard him exclaim,

Or better yet grunt,

“Merry Christmas to all, and

Bite me, ya hump!”

Christmas Time in Florida

by Stan Paregien

Oh, the lovely plastic holly is secured in our window tonight,

And our electric fireplace, glowing reddish orange, is pretty and bright.

There’s newly sprayed artificial snow on our green plastic palm tree,

So most all of the holiday decorating is through for the Mrs. and me.

 florida-christmas-01

Here in Florida at our large, gated 55-plus retirement community

We have an exciting annual Christmas parade for everyone to see.

All the high-dollar golf carts and bicycles have ribbons and lights,

And party-time reveling is done up to almost 8 pm on some nights.

 

Ah, yes, again here in sunny Florida it is obviously Christmas time.

And many of our home-grown traditions are both weird and sublime.

You see, here ol’ Santa Claus can really kick back and relax,

For no one ever phones him or sends him a text or even a fax.

 

Down here in Florida, Santa Claus is really hip and on the ball.

He has a new cellphone, a GPS and a deep southern drawl.

His staff of elves is so organized he gets presents out on time

Even to Snowbirds temporarily down here for the warm clime.

 

Santa retired from the bitter cold North Pole to right near here

And he has a nice luxury stable at the beach for his reindeer.

Santa’s elves also relocated to condos and they help him a lot,

Making sure Santa Baby quits golfing on the deadline’s dot.

 

Then they hitch the famous reindeer to his amphibious sleigh,

Equipped to land anywhere at all on that extra special day.

He flies so doggone fast the wind tugs at his beachcomber hat,

And he travels around the world delivering this and that.

 

Oh, it is absolutely true: Christmas time in Florida can’t be beat.

You can sit outside on your patio and drink a ice-cold treat.

Or you can stretch out at a warm beach and catch the sight

Of Jimmy Buffett, John Travolta or a swim suit too slight.

 

Friend, during Christmas time in Florida don’t get in a rush,

Just always go for the “Early Bird Special” to avoid a crush.

‘Cause Snowbirds clog the beaches, cafes, theaters and the like–

And they cause our living expenses here in Florida to spike.

 

Well, Christmas time in Florida is about perfect in every way:

We leave pretzels and a margarita for Santa on that special day.

In Paradise we scrape no ice and shovel not an ounce of snow,

So we’re happy here in Florida and we ain’t putting on a show.

[This poem copyrighted by Stan Paregien in 2014.]

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Issue 334 – Some Really Good News

Logo -- The Paregien Journal  -- 2016--05--09  03

Issue 334  –   May 10, 2016

Some Really Good News

It was in the summer of 1976 when I met Don DeWelt for the first and only time. That was when we both attended the North American Christian Convention, held that year in Denver, Colorado. I had known of Don for many years, thanks to his long preaching ministry and to his extensive ministry of the printed word. He had established College Press in Jopin, Missouri as a means of publishing Christian-oriented books and other materials and was having great success in that field.

DeWelt, Don -- 1919 to 1991

I assumed he knew of me only by my own writings. I wrote frequently for such Christian magazines as The Christian Standard, The Lookout, The Firm Foundation, and others such as Christianity Today. Plus by that time I had two published books books to my credit: The Day Jesus Died (in 1970 by Reuel Lemmons and the Firm Foundation Publishing House in Austin, Texas) and Thoughts on Unity (in 1971 by W. Carl Ketcherside and his Mission Messenger publishing label in St. Louis, Missouri). 

Anyway, Don and I met as we were each walking down the sidewalk on our way to the convention center. We struck up a casual conversation. He soon explained that he needed for someone to write a book on “The Gospel of John” that would be used as a workbook for use with a larger textbook at Ozark Bible College (Joplin, MO.) and other campuses . . . and that the workbook would be suitable as a stand alone book for churches to use in Bible classes. And then he looked me in the eye and said, “Brother Stan, would you write that book?”

When I was a junior at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., my journalism instructor warned us: “Once you get printer’s ink in your blood, you’ll never get it out.” A few weeks after he said those words my first article appeared in the Gospel Light magazine published in Delight, Arkansas. I found out my professor was absolutely correct. Since then, my first love has always been the printed word. And, in a Christian context, I have always been excited and thrilled at the idea of a book or an article of mine having a very long shelf life and access to people and places I could never personally go.

So I didn’t have to sleep on Don DeWelt’s idea or consult a lawyer. I said to him, “I’ll be glad and honored to write that book for you.” We shook hands, again, and that sealed the deal. I never saw him again. But we corresponded regularly and a few months later I turned in a manuscript over which I had labored intensively. Given the same amount of hours, I could have made more money flipping burgers at McDonalds. I was pleased with it when it came out in 1977 as a paperback titled 26 Lessons on the Gospel of John. It still reads pretty well today, some 39 years later.

Here is what that 1977 paperback (200 pages) looked like:

Paregien, Stan  --  26 Lessons on the Gospel of John  --  01 ---original front cover

Paregien, Stan  --  26 Lessons on the Gospel of John  -- 02  Original back cover

My little book was successful enough that College Press reprinted it in 1984 with a new cover, and here is what that looked like:

1984   new covers on 1977 26 Lessons on the Gospel Of John by S Paregien  - 01 -- front cover

1984   new covers on 1977 26 Lessons on the Gospel Of John by S Paregien  - 02 -- back cover

Well, Don DeWelt died in 1991. And I got involved doing other things, including writing a series of my own eBooks (now totaling 15 of them). And I gave only periodic, fleeting thought about maybe revising and reviving that book some day.

Now here comes the really good news.

That book has been out-of-print for at least 25 years. But on August 12, 2015, I received a letter from J. Philip Casey. Turns out he is the Executive Director of another organization founded by the late Don DeWelt, and that is a non-profit named Literature and Teaching Ministries located in Joplin, Missouri. He explained that Don made a trip to India many years ago and came into contact with a Dr. V. Gnanasikhamani in the city of Chennai (formerly Madras). He and his brother, Dr. V. Benni, translated many of College Press’s books into the Tamil dialect and published them in India under the “Christian Ministry of South India” brand. Dr. V. Gnanasikhamani died a few years back, but Dr. V. Bennie was continuing the work. And, . . . lo and behold . . . , he wanted my permission to translate my book into the Tamil language and to allow them to print it and distribute it all over India. 

Wow, I was amazed at the prospect. I quickly accepted the proposal and then went on about my own business. In fact, I lost track of the project as I had three different surgeries and traveled a bunch and had other health issues. Then, late in April of this year, I wrote to Philip Casey to see what the status of the project was. 

On Monday, May 9, 2016 a package arrived for me. It was a letter from Phil and a copy of my newest book–in a totally unintelligible language to me, but in an oh so beautiful format. It was my book, now a 238 paperback and being distributed in the huge nation of India. I thank Phil Casey and Don DeWelt’s son, Chris DeWelt, and Dr. V. Bennie and his staff in India for all the planning and work they did on this project. And I praise the Lord for uniting so many people behind the endeavor to resurrect my long-dormant book and for letting me live long enough to see this little miracle with my own eyes. 

Here is what my book looks like in the Tamil language of India as it was published on Oct. 2, 2015:

26 LESSONS ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN - by Stan Paregien -- India's Tamil dialect -- 2015 -- 01 Front cover

26 LESSONS ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN - by Stan Paregien -- India's Tamil dialect -- 2015 -- 02 Back  cover

26 LESSONS ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN - by Stan Paregien -- India's Tamil dialect -- 2015 -- 4 inside titles

26 LESSONS ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN - by Stan Paregien -- India's Tamil dialect -- 2015 -- 5 frontice piece in English

26 LESSONS ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN - by Stan Paregien -- India's Tamil dialect -- 2015 -- 6 page 11

I am having trouble putting into words how amazed and grateful and happy I am about how the book I wrote in 1977, 26 Lessons on the Gospel of John, was translated into the Tamil language and published on Oct. 2, 2015 in India by the folks at Christian Mission of South India.

That distribution program will go on as long as funds are available, and I hope and pray that will be a very long time. Scenes run through my mind of maybe a teenage boy in a remote village one day being led to acept the Lord Jesus Christ because someone unknown to me gave him a copy of my book. Or a situation in which a middle-aged computer engineer in New Delhi is searching for a real spiritual awakening in her life, finds a copy of my book somewhere and has her life dramatically changed beause of it. Or maybe it will inspire a generation of young people in India to openly profess their love for and devotion to the Christ who saved them. The possibilities are mind boggling. 

Of course, no one knows where all those books will finally find a home. But I believe God will bless any person who wants to follow him more closely. My prayer is that my little book will simply lead the readers to a deeper study of the Bible–God’s truth and Good News for the world–and to an acceptance of salvation through the Grace of God and the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus the Christ.

This unexpected resurrection of my 1977 book has inspired me to do what I wish I had done many years ago. That is to make this commitment to our Heavenly Father and to you, my friends, that I will completely revise and update that book for English readers. Furthermore, I will seek to have it published where copies will be available around the world as both an eBook and as a print-on-demand paperback (if I cannot find a regular publisher). Following that total revision, my long-range dream would be to have it translated and published in the Spanish, Chinese and Russian languages.shed as such. 

Hey, don’t tell me it can’t happen. It just did, at least in one language in India. And, praise God, that will be a precious inspiration for the rest of my life. 

P.S.  This story, above, certainly illustrates how God works in marvelous and totally unpredictable ways to gather people and resources together to bless other people. So I’m asking my Christian friends to please pray for my new project and for the discovery of publishers, translators and resources to accomplish it. Thank you.

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Issue 298 – The Resurrection of Jesus

Issue 298    —    The Paregien Journal    —    January March 31, 2015

The Resurrection of Jesus

by Stan Paregien Sr.

You may be among the large number of busy folks who have never really made a serious study regarding the evidences (or lack thereof) for the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. You may be from a passively religious family or even from an anti-religious family. Or maybe you just never thought too much about it. You’re certainly not alone.

However, I sincerely invite you to read the following article for William Lane Craig, a university professor and scholar who does a pretty darned good job of explaining why most Christians really do believe in the resurrection of Jesus and that it has made a wonderful difference in their lives.

The Resurrection of Jesus

by William Lane Craig

I spoke recently at a major Canadian university on the existence of God. After my talk, one slightly irate co-ed wrote on her comment card, “I was with you until you got to the stuff about Jesus. God is not the Christian God!”

This attitude is all too typical today. Most people are happy to agree that God exists; but in our pluralistic society it has become politically incorrect to claim that God has revealed Himself decisively in Jesus. What justification can Christians offer, in contrast to Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, for thinking that the Christian God is real?

The answer of the New Testament is: the resurrection of Jesus. “God will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17.31). The resurrection is God’s vindication of Jesus’ radical personal claims to divine authority.

Resurrection of Jesus -- 16 - Luke 24 v02-03

So how do we know that Jesus is risen from the dead? The Easter hymnwriter says, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!” This answer is perfectly appropriate on an individual level. But when Christians engage unbelievers in the public square—such as in “Letters to the Editor” of a local newspaper, on call-in programs on talk-radio, at PTA meetings, or even just in conversation with co-workers—, then it’s crucial that we be able to present objective evidence in support of our beliefs. Otherwise our claims hold no more water than the assertions of anyone else claiming to have a private experience of God.

Fortunately, Christianity, as a religion rooted in history, makes claims that can in important measure be investigated historically. Suppose, then, that we approach the New Testament writings, not as inspired Scripture, but merely as a collection of Greek documents coming down to us out of the first century, without any assumption as to their reliability other than the way we normally regard other sources of ancient history. We may be surprised to learn that the majority of New Testament critics investigating the gospels in this way accept the central facts undergirding the resurrection of Jesus. I want to emphasize that I am not talking about evangelical or conservative scholars only, but about the broad spectrum of New Testament critics who teach at secular universities and non-evangelical seminaries. Amazing as it may seem, most of them have come to regard as historical the basic facts which support the resurrection of Jesus. These facts are as follows:

FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 

This fact is highly significant because it means, contrary to radical critics like John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, that the location of Jesus’ burial site was known to Jew and Christian alike. In that case, the disciples could never have proclaimed his resurrection in Jerusalem if the tomb had not been empty. New Testament researchers have established this first fact on the basis of evidence such as the following:

1.  Jesus’ burial is attested in the very old tradition quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15.3-5:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: . . . that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.”

Paul not only uses the typical rabbinical terms “received” and “delivered” with regard to the information he is passing on to the Corinthians, but vv. 3-5 are a highly stylized four-line formula filled with non-Pauline characteristics. This has convinced all scholars that Paul is, as he says, quoting from an old tradition which he himself received after becoming a Christian. This tradition probably goes back at least to Paul’s fact-finding visit to Jerusalem around AD 36, when he spent two weeks with Cephas and James (Gal. 1.18). It thus dates to within five years after Jesus’ death. So short a time span and such personal contact make it idle to talk of legend in this case.

Placement of Jesus in the tomb -- 07

  1. The burial story is part of very old source material used by Mark in writing his gospel. The gospels tend to consist of brief snapshots of Jesus’ life which are loosely connected and not always chronologically arranged. But when we come to the passion story we do have one, smooth, continuously-running narrative. This suggests that the passion story was one of Mark’s sources of information in writing his gospel. Now most scholars think Mark is already the earliest gospel, and Mark’s source for Jesus’ passion is, of course, even older. Comparison of the narratives of the four gospels shows that their accounts do not diverge from one another until after the burial. This implies that the burial account was part of the passion story. Again, its great age militates against its being legendary.
  1. As a member of the Jewish court that condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention. There was strong resentment against the Jewish leadership for their role in the condemnation of Jesus (I Thess. 2.15). It is therefore highly improbable that Christians would invent a member of the court that condemned Jesus who honors Jesus by giving him a proper burial instead of allowing him to be dispatched as a common criminal.
  2. No other competing burial story exists. If the burial by Joseph were fictitious, then we would expect to find either some historical trace of what actually happened to Jesus’ corpse or at least some competing legends. But all our sources are unanimous on Jesus’ honorable interment by Joseph.

For these and other reasons, the majority of New Testament critics concur that Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. According to the late John A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University, the burial of Jesus in the tomb is “one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus.”1

FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.

Resurrection of Jesus -- 12

Among the reasons which have led most scholars to this conclusion are the following:

  1. The empty tomb story is also part of the old passion source used by Mark. The passion source used by Mark did not end in death and defeat, but with the empty tomb story, which is grammatically of one piece with the burial story.
  2. The old tradition cited by Paul in I Cor. 15.3-5implies the fact of the empty tomb. For any first century Jew, to say that of a dead man “that he was buried and that he was raised” is to imply that a vacant grave was left behind. Moreover, the expression “on the third day” probably derives from the women’s visit to the tomb on the third day, in Jewish reckoning, after the crucifixion. The four-line tradition cited by Paul summarizes both the gospel accounts and the early apostolic preaching (Acts 13. 28-31); significantly, the third line of the tradition corresponds to the empty tomb story.
  3. The story is simple and lacks signs of legendary embellishment. All one has to do to appreciate this point is to compare Mark’s account with the wild legendary stories found in the second-century apocryphal gospels, in which Jesus is seen coming out of the tomb with his head reaching up above the clouds and followed by a talking cross!
  4. The fact that women’s testimony was discounted in first century Palestine stands in favor of the women’s role in discovering the empty tomb. According to Josephus, the testimony of women was regarded as so worthless that it could not even be admitted into a Jewish court of law. Any later legendary story would certainly have made male disciples discover the empty tomb.
  5. The earliest Jewish allegation that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body (Matt. 28.15) shows that the body was in fact missing from the tomb. The earliest Jewish response to the disciples’ proclamation, “He is risen from the dead!” was not to point to his occupied tomb and to laugh them off as fanatics, but to claim that they had taken away Jesus’ body. Thus, we have evidence of the empty tomb from the very opponents of the early Christians.

One could go on, but I think that enough has been said to indicate why, in the words of Jacob Kremer, an Austrian specialist in the resurrection, “By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements concerning the empty tomb.”2

FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars, for the following reasons:

  1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15. 5-7guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, the 500 brethren, and James.
  2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.
  3. Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?

Even Gert L¸demann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”3

FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

Think of the situation the disciples faced after Jesus’ crucifixion:

  1. Their leader was dead. And Jews had no belief in a dying, much less rising, Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to throw off Israel’s enemies (= Rome) and re-establish a Davidic reign—not suffer the ignominious death of criminal.
  2. According to Jewish law, Jesus’ execution as a criminal showed him out to be a heretic, a man literally under the curse of God (Deut. 21.23). The catastrophe of the crucifixion for the disciples was not simply that their Master was gone, but that the crucifixion showed, in effect, that the Pharisees had been right all along, that for three years they had been following a heretic, a man accursed by God!
  3. Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone’s rising from the dead to glory and immortality before the general resurrection at the end of the world. All the disciples could do was to preserve their Master’s tomb as a shrine where his bones could reside until that day when all of Israel’s righteous dead would be raised by God to glory.

Despite all this, the original disciples believed in and were willing to go to their deaths for the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar from Emory University, muses, “some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was . . . .”4 N. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, “that is why, as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.”5

Summary

In summary, there are four facts agreed upon by the majority of scholars who have written on these subjects which any adequate historical hypothesis must account for: Jesus’ entombment by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection.

Now the question is: what is the best explanation of these four facts? Most sholars probably remain agnostic about this question. But the Christian can maintain that the hypothesis that best explains these facts is “God raised Jesus from the dead.”

In his book Justifying Historical Descriptions, historian C. B. McCullagh lists six tests which historians use in determining what is the best explanation for given historical facts.6 The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” passes all these tests:

  1. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the tomb was found empty, why the disciples saw post-mortem appearances of Jesus, and why the Christian faith came into being.
  1. It has great explanatory power: it explains why the body of Jesus was gone, why people repeatedly saw Jesus alive despite his earlier public execution, and so forth.
  1. It is plausible: given the historical context of Jesus’ own unparalleled life and claims, the resurrection serves as divine confirmation of those radical claims.
  1. It is not ad hocorcontrived: it requires only one additional hypothesis: that God exists. And even that needn’t be an additional hypothesis if one already believes that God exists.
  1. It isin accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis: “God raised Jesus from the dead” doesn’t in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people don’t rise naturally from the dead. The Christian accepts thatbelief as wholeheartedly as he accepts the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead.
  1. It far outstrips any of its rival hypotheses in meeting conditions (1)-(5).Down through history various alternative explanations of the facts have been offered, for example, the conspiracy hypothesis, the apparent death hypothesis, the hallucination hypothesis, and so forth. Such hypotheses have been almost universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. None of these naturalistic hypotheses succeeds in meeting the conditions as well as the resurrection hypothesis.

Now this puts the sceptical critic in a rather desperate situation. A few years ago I participated in a debate on the resurrection of Jesus with a professor at the University of California, Irvine. He had written his doctoral dissertation on the resurrection, and he was thoroughly familiar with the evidence. He could not deny the facts of Jesus’ honorable burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in the resurrection. So his only recourse was to come up with some alternate explanation of those facts. And so he argued that Jesus of Nazareth had an unknown, identical twin brother, who was separated from him as an infant and grew up independently, but who came back to Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, stole Jesus’ body out of the tomb, and presented himself to the disciples, who mistakenly inferred that Jesus was risen from the dead! Now I won’t bother to go into how I went about refuting this theory. But I think the example is illustrative of the desperate lengths to which scepticism must go in order to refute the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, the evidence is so powerful that one of the world’s leading Jewish theologians, the late Pinchas Lapide, who taught at Hebrew University in Israel, declared himself convinced on the basis of the evidence that the God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead!7

The significance of the resurrection of Jesus lies in the fact that it is not just any old Joe Blow who has been raised from the dead, but Jesus of Nazareth, whose crucifixion was instigated by the Jewish leadership because of his blasphemous claims to divine authority. If this man has been raised from the dead, then the God whom he allegedly blasphemed has clearly vindicated his claims. Thus, in an age of religious relativism and pluralism, the resurrection of Jesus constitutes a solid rock on which Christians can take their stand for God’s decisive self-revelation in Jesus.

 Notes

1 John A. T. Robinson, The Human Face of God (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973), p. 131.

2 Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien—Geschichten um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50.

3 Gerd L¸demann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 80.

4 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 136.

5 N. T. Wright, “The New Unimproved Jesus,” Christianity Today (September 13, 1993), p. 26.

6 C. Behan McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 19.

7 Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus, trans. Wilhelm C. Linss (London: SPCK, 1983).

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-resurrection-of-jesus#ixzz3Vv63kuXw  [as of March 30, 2015]

 ***********************************************

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. His web site is titled, “Reasonable Faith,” and the address is at the end of the above article.

At the age of sixteen as a junior in high school, he first heard the message of the Christian gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity, during which time he and Jan started their family. In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until assuming his position at Talbot in 1994.

He has authored or edited over thirty books, including The Kalam Cosmological ArgumentAssessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of JesusDivine Foreknowledge and Human FreedomTheism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology; and God, Time and Eternity, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology, including The Journal of PhilosophyNew Testament StudiesJournal for the Study of the New TestamentAmerican Philosophical QuarterlyPhilosophical StudiesPhilosophy, and British Journal for Philosophy of Science.
END.

Issue 297 – The Day Jesus Died

Issue 297    —    The Paregien Journal    —    March 25, 2015

The Day Jesus Died

by Stan Paregien Sr.

1968-001 Cover of The Day Jesus Died

Franklin D. Roosevelt denounced the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, calling that moment in his­tory “a day of infamy.” I was much too young to recall the wave of terror and outrage which swept our nation when the news of the attack shattered an otherwise peaceful Sunday afternoon, but the films and historical accounts of the slaughter have sent chills down my spine.

However, as tragic as was December 7, 1941, it cannot begin to compare with the day that my Savior died.

 That Awful Day

 The day began calmly and quietly; there was no indica­tion that this day would be much different from any other. Jesus and his disciples were gathered in a small second- story room where they had gone to observe the Passover Feast. The observance of this Jewish holy day was nearly finished. The disciples were somewhat perplexed over the manner in which Jesus presided at the memorial, for he indicated to them that certain portions of the Passover Feast would take on greater meaning in the near future. But their theorizing was temporarily discontinued as they joined together in the singing of a hymn or psalm, a custom which marked the end of the Paschal Supper.

One by one they made their way downstairs to the nar­row street. The fine meal and the lateness of the hour had combined to make them drowsy, but the chill of the Pales­tinian night air quickly revived them. The streets were streaked with rays of light which es­caped from the doorways, but few people stirred. Only an occasional bark of a dog some distance away challenged the stillness. Slowly the dedicated group made its way along the winding streets, through the great Wall, and down the sharp slope of the hill.

At the bottom of the hill the group paused and then walked across the tiny brook named Kedron. “There a symbolic thing must have happened. All the Passover lambs were killed in the Temple, and the blood of the lambs was poured on the altar as an offer­ing to God. The number of lambs which were slain for the Passover was immense. . . . We may imagine what the Temple courts were like when the blood of all these lambs was dashed down on to the altar. From the altar there was a channel down to the brook Kedron, and through that channel the blood of the Passover lambs drained away. When Jesus crossed the brook Kedron it would still be red with the blood of the lambs which had been sacrificed. And surely as he did so, the thought of Jesus’ own sacrifice would be vivid in his mind (William Barclay, The Gospel of John, II, 259).

In a few moments the party reached its destination: the Garden of Gethsemane, a peaceful spot where Jesus had often come before.

Sensing that their journey had ended, the disciples be­gan seating themselves, some even reclining. But the Mas­ter had other plans for his closest disciples, Peter, James and John. It was this trio which had stood by Jesus when he preached in Capernaum (Mark 1:21-29), when he raised the ruler’s daughter (Mark 5), and when he was transfig­ured (Gospel of Mark 9:2-8). He needed them again, perhaps as he never had before.

Calling them aside, Jesus said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” One account continues the story this way: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’ And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy” (Gospel of Matthew 26:39-43).

Not even the chill of the morning breeze could ward off the drowsiness which now overwhelmed the men. But no matter, the Master’s duty was clear; his mind was made up. Resolutely, he awaited the inevitable intrusion of the tranquil scene before him.

He didn’t have long to wait. Earlier in the evening Judas left the upper room to solidify his compact with the authorities, and to personally lead them to their prey. For “Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, procuring a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When he said to them, I am he, they drew back and fell on the ground. Again he asked them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he; so, if you seek me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfill the word which he had spoken, ‘Of those whom You gave me I lost not one.’ Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?’ So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him” (John 18: 2-12).

“The final absurdity in the arrest of Jesus was the binding of our Lord with ropes they had brought along. A monument to the stupidity of mob action is this ridiculous act. Nothing could have been more obvious than that Jesus had no intention of attempt­ing escape. He did not walk to the cross because ropes bound his hands and feet. He went there be­cause “God so loved the world.” He went because the work of the devil had to be undone. He went because he wept for the sins which separated man from God. The ropes could not have held him any more than a stone at the mouth of a tomb, or grave clothes … or death itself” (Roy F. Osborne, Great Preachers of To­day: Sermons of Roy F. Osborne. J. D. Thomas, ed., p. 79).

The tempo increases now, like a wide and quiet river which downstream becomes a cascading, rushing torrent as it enters a narrow canyon.

The Trial before Annas,

The Jewish Leader

The scenes flash across the screen with breathtaking speed.

There is the inquisition at the hands of Annas. From a legal standpoint, there was no reason for the soldiers to bring Jesus before this man. But the niceties of judicial procedure were to be of only minor interest in this diaboli­cal plot. Annas was almost ecstatic over the capture of this young rebel who had made such a nuisance of himself. Having been the chief beneficiary from the sale of animals in the temple, Annas had wanted to get his hands on Jesus ever since he had driven the animal sellers and money changers from the temple. Even though Annas had not held the official office of high priest since A.D. 15, he was nevertheless the real power behind his puppet-high priest (and son-in-law), Caiaphas.

The interrogation was brief and to the point. Jesus was questioned “about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest” (Gospel of John 18:19-24).

At this juncture, we must retrace our steps and bring the lives of two other men into focus: Judas and Peter.

Judas

The name Judas is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah, a name which obviously was associated with great persons, events and places in the history of the Jews. But a scant few years after Judas Iscariot’s actions in the Gar­den of Gethsemane, parents no longer named their sons “Judas.” The name became a synonym for a person with no ethics; it still brings to mind the idea of dishonesty and treachery.

Exactly what his reason was for betraying Christ is not clear. Perhaps he was sulking under the stinging rebuke which Jesus administered at the supper in the house of Simon the leper (Gospel of Matthew 26:6-16). Perhaps he simply in­tended to force Jesus into a position of militancy toward the Romans and the Jewish establishment, a desire shared by the rest of the disciples. Perhaps he had simply fallen victim to the love of money, for John reveals many years later that Judas had decided quite early that his job as treasurer of the disciples entitled him to a few extra fringe benefits (John 12:6). Whatever the reason or rea­sons, Judas deliberately and methodically carried out his plan.

The irony of his sordid act was that instead of bringing any degree of satisfaction, it brought shame, guilt and bitterness. “When Judas . . . saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself. And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself” (Gospel of Matthew 27:3-5).

Peter

 Then there was Peter. If ever a man lived who had to be where the action was, it was this fisherman from Galilee. Other than his persistent and peculiar knack of placing his feet squarely in his mouth, there was nothing about him to suggest that he would ever get far away from being an average disciple. But he was destined to soar to great spiritual heights, as well as to plummet to the bottom of the barrel.

Peter’s problems were many, but one of his greatest was his unwarranted confidence in himself. Fishermen, like farmers, are hardy, tough-minded, independent individuals. Therefore, one of the difficult adjustments which Peter faced was in learning that there is a spot in the continuum of life where enlightened self-confidence becomes arrogant self-assertiveness.

There in the upper room Jesus warned the eleven that they would all fall away from him that very night. In his characteristically impulsive manner, “Peter declared to him, ‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you'” (Gospel of Matthew 26:33-35). Peter’s affirmation reflects not a spirit of bravado, but a kind of leap-before-you-look impetuousness.

Two trials took place when Jesus was brought to the high priest, Caiaphas. One involved Jesus, the other Peter. Per­plexed by his Master’s refusal to be defended by the sword, Peter found himself following the crowd of soldiers from a safe distance. Periodically he caught a glimpse of Jesus in the sea of unfamiliar and unfriendly faces. He watched from the shadows as the guards led Jesus into the house of Caiaphas.

Not knowing what to do or where to go, and perhaps hoping against hope that Jesus would be released, Peter de­cided to wait below in the courtyard. Some of the guards had built a coal fire, so Peter sat down beside them. He stared motionlessly into the dancing flames.

And then it happened. His face, illumined by the light from the fire, drew the attention of one of the high priest’s maids. “She looked at him, and said, ‘You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I neither know nor under­stand what you mean.’ And he went out into the gateway. And the maid saw him, and began again to say to the by­standers, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. And after a little while again the bystanders said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Gali­lean.’ But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know this man of whom you speak.’ And immediately the cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept” (Gospel of Mark 14:67-72).

Inside the house the Jewish leaders were carrying out their plot with meticulous precision. “The chief priests and the whole council sought testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, and their witness did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”‘ Yet not even so did their testimony agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer to make? What is it that these “men testify against you?’ But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ And the high priest tore his mantle, and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?’ And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards received him with blows” (Gospel of Mark 14:55-65).

The Trial before Pilate,

The Roman Governor

“And as soon as it was morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council held at con­sultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate” (Gospel of Mark 15:1).

Interestingly, John tells us that these men who conspired to destroy a good man were still so “pious” that they would not enter Pilate’s palace for fear that they would be cere­monially defiled (Gospel of John 18:28). They avoided “incurring a defilement which, lasting till the evening, would not only have involved them in the inconvenience of Levitical defile­ment on the first festive day, but have actually prevented their offering on that day the Passover, festive sacrifice, or Chagigah” (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, II, 568).

Pilate understood their cus­tom, so he stepped outside to find out what all the shouting was about. Pilate’s patience with the Jews was understandable. He had been sent to Judea just a few years earlier to bring peace to this troublesome Roman territory, but he had failed miserably. The arrogant policies which he first adopted had in fact caused several riots. The emperor ex­pected his orders to be obeyed. So Pilate recently had be­gun shifting his tactics with the Jews from a show-of-power to a policy of appeasement, hoping they would co­operate with him.

He listened to their charges and said, “Take him your­selves and judge him by your own law.” But he knew, and they quickly reminded him, that under Roman law they were unable to carry out capital punishment. The death decree had to come from the Roman governor.

The Trial before Herod,

Governor of Galilee

Pilate tried to get off the hook again. Upon hearing that Jesus was from Galilee he decided to send the fellow over to Herod. “Let him handle this hot potato,” Pilate reasoned. “When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length; but he made no an­swer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehe­mently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then, arraying him in glorious apparel, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other” (Gospel of Luke 23:8-12).

Back to Pilate

Then Pilate had a brainstorm. “Why I almost forgot what day this is—I’ve got a way out of this mess after all,” he thought with a sigh of relief. He began to implement his plan: “He went out to the Jews again, and told them, ‘I find no crime in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?’ They cried out again, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber” (Gospel of John 18:38-40).

Pilate’s bag of tricks was almost empty but he didn’t give up easily. He thought awhile and decided that the fickle Jewish leaders would probably be satisfied with see­ing the man from Nazareth beaten within an inch of his life. After all, everyone knew how vicious Roman punishment was. No man was ever the same after a Roman soldier had cut his back to pieces with a whip which had sharpened bits of metal and bone embedded in the leather strands. “No reason to kill him if we can help it,” he mur­mured to himself.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and by the law he ought to die, because he has made him­self the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid; he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin’ ” (Gospel of John 19:1-11).

The hardened Roman governor was visibly shaken by his conversation with Jesus. “What kind of a nightmare is this? Can this be for real? Why won’t he defend him­self? Is he … is he just a man?” Pilate wondered and worried. Once again “Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.’ When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar” (Gospel of John 19:12-15).

Pilate could hardly believe his ears. Ever since the Ro­man occupation of Judea, they had demanded—to no avail —that the Jews acknowledge Caesar as their king. But since the Romans considered their emperor to be a god, the Jews refused to acknowledge him as their king on the grounds that they would be committing idolatry. “How strong their burning hatred of Jesus must be to drive them to such inconsistency,” the governor reasoned.

Still seeking an escape from any blame for this act, and realizing that the Jews were adamant in their unholy desire, Pilate “took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it your­selves’ ” (Matt. 27:24). And he sent Jesus to be executed. But the guilt for this crime could not be dismissed so light­ly. It may have been a guilt-ridden conscience which many years later caused Pilate to commit suicide.

The Place Called Golgotha

 Jesus was silent as the death march began. His bleeding back was so painful that every step brought a groan to his throat. And it was on this crimson-stained back that a rough, heavy cross was placed. The pathetic procession made its way through the narrow, winding streets. The multitudes filled the side streets and the doorways. Some of the bystanders jeered and laughed at this young rebel. Others, both men and women, wept freely. Most of the crowd watched quietly and curiously.

Time and time again Jesus stumbled and fell. It became evident to the soldiers that they would never make it to the place of execution at this rate. A Roman soldier turned toward the crowd and surveyed it. “You! Come here!” he bellowed. And a large, dark man named Simon, from the city of Cyrene in northern Africa, stepped forward. This religious pilgrim was forced to carry the cross to its desti­nation, a small hill outside Jerusalem named Golgotha.

“Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him and the criminals, one of the right and one of the left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed ‘at him saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and say­ing, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise'” (Gospel of Luke 23:32-43).

As the spikes were driven through Christ’s hands and his feet, Mary felt them pierce her heart. She watched the proceedings from the foot of the cross and through the eyes of a mother. Her son, whom she knew to be right­eous, was falsely accused and convicted. Now this man, her own flesh and blood, was was dying in muted agony.

“When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved stand­ing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Gospel of John 19:26, 27).

The end was near.

Mark tells us that when noontime came, there was darkness over the entire land until 3:00 p.m. And then “Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ And some of the bystanders hear­ing it said, ‘Behold, he is calling Elijah.’ And one ran and, filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed and. gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God!'” (Gospel of Mark 15: 34-39).

If this had been the death of a simple Galilean crackpot, a rebel against the religious establishment or a would-be politician on the make, his death would hold little meaning to us today. If his suffering had been inflicted because he rightfully deserved punishment, we would feel no pangs of sympathy. But that’s just the point. His death was dif­ferent. He gave his life—willingly and freely—for others. His crucifixion was an expression of God’s love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Gospel of John 3:16).

The body of a certain Civil War soldier lies in a cemetery in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The soldier’s tombstone tells the date of his birth and death, plus these three words: “Abraham Lincoln’s substitute.” During the darkest days of the war, when thousands were dying on the battlefield, President Lincoln decided to honor one particular soldier as his substitute, thereby making him a symbol of the fact that those who died in battle were dying that others might live.

In a similar way, when I think of the suffering Savior dying, I realize that I could write across the beam of that old, rugged cross these words: “My substitute.”

And so could you.

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NOTE:  This post, “The Day Jesus Died,” is Chapter 6 in my e-Book by the same name. You may purchase the entire e-Book in one of seven formats (including PDF, Kindle and Apple) at: 

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/StanParegien .

Also, I invite you to visit my other blog sites:

STAN’S PARADISE REPORT

http:www.stansparadisereport.wordpress.com

THE COWBOY WAY:  THEN AND NOW

http:www.cowboystan.wordpress.com

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