Rotary club of Spennymoor

President: Alan Phillips     Hon. Treasurer: Ian Lavery     Hon. Secretary: Martin Orrick

Chartered in 1966        Club no.1021    Registered Charity Number 1092547

 

The Green Tree - 1727

 

The Green Tree

Meeting Place, The Green Tree ,The Green, Tudoe Village, Spennymoor. 

Every Monday 7.pm.( Except Bank Holidays). 

Great choice of food from the menu from �6.95 and wine raffle �1.

Dress:- Jackets and ties for men (although in Summer months jacket is not a requirement), smart/casual dress for ladies.

Christmyth Message2016

 

I have titled this talk the christmyth message and I would like to explore  some of the myths surrounding Christmas. I should say at the outset that the message carries an X certificate in that it is not for  children of any age and may challenge some cherished believes.

I would like to consider three facets of Christmas. First of all Santa Clause, then the commercial distortion of Christmas, and finally try to unravel the mixed biblical accounts of Christmas.

 

Hands up all those who believe in Santa Clause. I can remember discussing this with   a few chums sheltering in someone"™s porch one rainy December day age six. We had heard a rumour that it was  our parents who filled the stocking and supplied the presents. We listed what we knew about Santa Clause. He is a portly old gent with a long white beard a, wears a long red gown and goes ho ho ho. He lives some where in the frozen North  and there he has a toy factory and with lots of little helpers pixies, elves and the like he makes toys to distribute to all good Christian boys and girls. On Christmas eve all these toys were piled on to a big sledge which is pulled by some very rapid reindeers that took off and flew visiting every eligible household pretty well simultaneously.  He parked the sleigh on he roof descended the chimney and filled our stockings with lots of toys. Some of these we had requested and some were not what we wanted at all. It was not easy to make sense of all this. We dismissed the theory of Santa coming down the chimney. He was too fat and would get covered with soot like a chimney sweep. We had never seen a sooty Santa. As for visiting every house hold throughout Christendom in one night well we did not really believe that. All the stores seemed to have their own Santa and we reasoned that there must be a team of local Santa"™s who did the leg work. They probably left the presents on the door step like the milkman .Perhaps our mums and dads filled the stockings. But we reasoned  there had to be a Santa Clause to account for the presents. We knew our parents too well.  It was hard to coaxes  the odd three penny Walls out of them never mind three bob for the must have Dinky toy and the Christmas munificence  was well beyond them. True that Dinky toy did sometimes turn up but often we had moved on and it was no longer the thing of the moment.  So a modified myth of Santa remained at least for one more Christmas.

 

 Later we wondered how sensible it might be for parents to deceive their kids at such a tender age about things as important to them as Santa Clause. Some children we knew were in any case terrified of Santa Clause"¦ a condition known as"¦"¦? claustrophobia. Other children were more indulged than  us and never matured enough to handle  the difficulties of life; which may be a problem of the current  younger generation.

 

 

 Santa Clause apart, Christmas remains the season for giving and receiving of gifts.. The Shepherds brought some lambs and the three kings according to my Geordie Bible brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.. what myrrh wah not tellt .  There is also the understanding that God sent us the gift of Jesus. In giving presents at Christmas we are mimicking this.  This worthy concept has been usurped by hard-line commercialism

 

So hands up those who believe the accumulation of consumer luxuries increases happiness?  (shoes, dresses hand bags bling) We need to be aware that once the necessities of life are met the acquisition and consumption of more and more luxury goods adds little to our happiness.

 

The trouble for many is that the whole of the commerce, television,  advertising, and social media is successfully spending billions trying to convince us otherwise. We are psyched down to feel unhappy, inadequate or deprived unless we can acquire particular products. Young people especially feel they are not connected, not part of a scene, unless they can acquire the latest gismo or fashion item. If anyone can"™t afford all this wonderful tat on offer, then no problem, this is the mythical Never-Never land where it is all too easy to borrow money, albeit at savage rates of interest. Some people can then become enslaved to debt as well as to their acquisitive addiction. They face a harsh reality when their credit cards max out and their personal Santa  proves to be a myth. More and more young people have  become so unhappy or disillusioned  we find suicides   have increased so that it is now the highest cause of death amongst the under 35 age group. Papyrus is a charity that is trying to increase awareness of this and rotary in Spennymoor is supporting it this year.  We are not raising money but raising awareness. Please find their website and enrol for free to increase their lobby weight...

 

 

 Suicides actually increase at Christmas but we have to be careful not to confuse a correlation with a cause and  effect. There are  complex social, economic and political factors involved here. .. Acquisitions can be addictive and do give a brief high.. think shopaholic..  or think retail therapy the mythical cure for depression. Phases that have come into out language. Acquisitions can also give a feeling of being part of things ...  Feeling connected is an important protective factor for young people who may struggle if this is compromised. Unfortunately the same commercial forces that drive acquisitions  can exclude people and have also caused communities to loose their identity as many small and local high street businesses have disappeared and with their loss, communities can disintegrate.. (and rotary clubs decline) 

 

This commercial system which enslaves so many of its consumers also depends on exploitation of its producers. Millions in developing countries work like salves for long hour in dangerous conditions to provide our luxuries. Manufacturing  today goes were labour is cheap. That is a euphemism for where life is cheap.  Thomas Hood"™s nineteenth century poem stirred the conscience of the nation in Victoria times we can still parody this to day "˜that pretty dress of which you"™re proud, is for another girl her shroud"™. On top of that, while we indulge in luxuries we pollute and deplete the planet today and thereby deprive the following generations of their necessities tomorrow.

 

 

Neither God nor Rotary supports this unjust economic system. God takes the side of the exploited, the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed. Rotary requires fairness to all.. Both  have the task to overthrow the economic status quo and to do so peacefully just as slavery and child labour were abolished.   There is a prediction   that the system based on mythical money and government intervention to  benefit a select  few   will  self destruct  abruptly. In the mean time we can withdraw  consent and co-operation to bring about a more controlled  outcome.

 

 We can  consider what  drives our desires  In practical terms  the message is buy fair traded goods whenever possible. Buy sustainably  sourced  products.  Shop at the Co-op where the profit comes back to the community.  Avoid big super markets and multinationals. These siphon 80% of profits out of our local economy and redistribute it to shareholders,  and City fat cats. Especially keep away from companies known to avoid paying their taxes. When it comes to paying taxes, every little helps. Rotary traditionally would urge you to support locally owned businesses; local bakers, local butchers, local pharmacies, local filling stations, local post offices, and local brewaries. By contrast 80% of the profit made in these small business stays in and en riches the local community; it supports local families and makes the community and local economy stronger. Crucially they provide the priceless ingredient of social cohesion. We have come a long way form Christmas .. which is where rampant commercialism leads us. 

 

This brings us happily back to the definitive reason for Christmas; the birth of Christ which was the pivotal event in world history. Hands up all who believe in Jesus. It"™s a bit of a trick question as the issue is what we believe about Jesus. The Gospels carry two seemingly contradictory Christmas stories and a more rational philosophical interpretation. The first thing to say is that the popular image as portrayed in nativity plays and cribs probably did not occur. The shepherds and angels may have been there in the early hours of 25th December. Shepherds at the time were thought of as the lowest form of life and regarded in a similar way to the way we may regard gypsies today. You know the joke about a group of gypsies arriving at the pearly gates"¦.?    The three kings represented the opposite extreme of society but they didn"™t arrive until 12th night 6th January and the eastern churches celebrate Christmas then.  Between these events one important bit of Christmas is air brushed out of the popular concept . Never in a nativity play or Christmas Carol.  What happens to Jewish boys with in 8 days of birth?   The joke is that the temple were having what?"¦ a 10% off day.. and Mary could not resist it.

 

John"™s gospel gives no account of the nativity and opens with "in the beginning was the word". " Word" is not the most understandable translation of the Greek word logos which is the same root that we have in logic and all the ologies (Zoology geology) meaning knowledge. So in the beginning was logic and knowledge may be for some a more understandable a concept that an embodied God. God is portrayed as a eternal logical and an intelligence which  pre existing  the big bang. John is saying in his phraseology that and the role of Jesus is to shine a light on this understanding and explains how we should live in the light of that logic.

 

The New Testament begins with Mathews"™s long account of the genealogy of Jesus. His ancestry is traced from his father Joseph  back through David to Abraham.   This is pretty impressive. It is saying that Jesus was the true King of the Jews and had all the credentials to be the long awaited Jewish Messiah. Herod usurped as king. He was only half a Jew and an opportunistic upstart who was a puppet for the occupying Roman power. He was tolerated but not respected  and subject to continuous threat of uprising form a large section of the population intent on restoring their rightful king and achieving freedom from Roman domination. Jesus was the rightful heir. There was a small theoretical problem since Jesus had been conceived out of wedlock. Mary was a virgin in the legal sense; she was still a maid or miss  at the time of conception although married to Joseph by the time she gave birth. This does not seem to have been too much of a problem and fulfilled some old testament prophesies. If you look at the genealogy there are far more spicy breaches of propriety in there. Abraham"™s first son was to his wife"™s slave. David produce Solomon by an adulterous relationship and in another instance an heir was produce by a liaison of father and daughter in law. The three kings came to visit a Jewish King. So Jesus was then hardly of lowly birth as is sometimes portrayed and was an important political figure who would have been well connected and had a ready made following. He was born the Davidic pretender to the Jewish throne and as we know was executed as King of the Jews.

 

 

Paradoxically Christ did not found Christianity.  Jesus did however come to be considered Divine and worshiped as a God very quickly after his death and resurrection. In his life time he was not given nor claimed Divine status. Certainly those who met Jesus felt strongly as he said himself that God was acting through him and many felt they had met God in him. Not even his enemies denied his unusual powers but attributed these to the devil.   After the resurrection the majority of converts were gentiles and there was considerable debate amongst the earlier followers of Christ as to whether converts needed to become Jews first. In the end it was decided that circumcision and the strict food laws were not required and what had thus become Christianity spread rapidly amongst the surrounding pagan communities. These communities brought their own understandings. In Roman culture dead leaders and heroes were worshiped as gods. The Caesars for instance was deified. In Greek mythology there are many examples of their gods visiting earth and having liaisons with earthly virgins to produce demi gods. For new Christian converts from both of these cultures it was understandable they should regard Jesus as a god. They even took over a pagan mid winter festival to celebrate his birth where as in fact Jesus was born in lambing time  Spring.  By the time the gospels were written some 30 to 70 years after the crucifixion the divine status of Jesus was widely accepted and got interwoven into the gospels in an attempt to implant   the divinity of Christ into the nativity. In this version of events Jesus was believed to have been conceived by a virgo intacto virgin Mary and was delivered with her still retaining an intact hymen. In other words Jesus got out of the womb the same way he got out of the tomb. He was able to dematerialise and reform at will. Transubstantiation in its proper sense.   

 

Both these versions of the nativity circulated for the first three hundred years of Christianity with out any one really understanding if Christ was man or god and if so how this squared with the first commandment of the monotheist God. Eventually the Christians beat the lions and Rome officially adopted Christianity.  An official roman belief was then needed. The ecumenical council of Niecia was convened in 325 to decide the issue. You may think this was a good way to give God a laugh as  God can not be contained within our meagre intellects"¦  we attempt to do so with  all the knowledge, insight and intellectual maturity of a six year old contemplating Santa  Clause . No doubt trying to be all things to all men a 100 and more Bishops established the notion of the Trinity. Christ was all man and simultaneously all God without one state interfering with the other. Both states co-existed simultaneously. This was contentions then and still is and is beyond normal comprehension.

However just over a hundred years ago Einstein and others came up with the proof that light which had long been mathematically proven an electro-magnetic wave could also be proven to be particulate. Quantum theory required that both states could coexist simultaneously. This also is beyond normal comprehension and is an interesting correlation to conjure with but proves nothing. The probability of finding one state or the other it turned out depends on the observer and the question asked. In the post quantum universe probability is the nearest we can get. So probably it does not matter if we observe Jesus to be a God or a man ...or both. Either way it is Christ"™s  message which is crucial. This is the same what ever we believe about his person.  It is that if we live in accordance with that divine logic or divine will, that is we love each other and love and trust God, our happiness now and our eternal salvation is assured.. . It"™s all inclusive, solves all the problems we have discussed, it  starts now and lasts for ever and ever. Amen.Christmyth Message

 

I have titled this talk the christmyth message and I would like to explore  some of the myths surrounding Christmas. I should say at the outset that the message carries an X certificate in that it is not for  children of any age and may challenge some cherished believes.

I would like to consider three facets of Christmas. First of all Santa Clause, then the commercial distortion of Christmas, and finally try to unravel the mixed biblical accounts of Christmas.

 

Hands up all those who believe in Santa Clause. I can remember discussing this with   a few chums sheltering in someone"™s porch one rainy December day age six. We had heard a rumour that it was  our parents who filled the stocking and supplied the presents. We listed what we knew about Santa Clause. He is a portly old gent with a long white beard a, wears a long red gown and goes ho ho ho. He lives some where in the frozen North  and there he has a toy factory and with lots of little helpers pixies, elves and the like he makes toys to distribute to all good Christian boys and girls. On Christmas eve all these toys were piled on to a big sledge which is pulled by some very rapid reindeers that took off and flew visiting every eligible household pretty well simultaneously.  He parked the sleigh on he roof descended the chimney and filled our stockings with lots of toys. Some of these we had requested and some were not what we wanted at all. It was not easy to make sense of all this. We dismissed the theory of Santa coming down the chimney. He was too fat and would get covered with soot like a chimney sweep. We had never seen a sooty Santa. As for visiting every house hold throughout Christendom in one night well we did not really believe that. All the stores seemed to have their own Santa and we reasoned that there must be a team of local Santa"™s who did the leg work. They probably left the presents on the door step like the milkman .Perhaps our mums and dads filled the stockings. But we reasoned  there had to be a Santa Clause to account for the presents. We knew our parents too well.  It was hard to coaxes  the odd three penny Walls out of them never mind three bob for the must have Dinky toy and the Christmas munificence  was well beyond them. True that Dinky toy did sometimes turn up but often we had moved on and it was no longer the thing of the moment.  So a modified myth of Santa remained at least for one more Christmas.

 

 Later we wondered how sensible it might be for parents to deceive their kids at such a tender age about things as important to them as Santa Clause. Some children we knew were in any case terrified of Santa Clause"¦ a condition known as"¦"¦? claustrophobia. Other children were more indulged than  us and never matured enough to handle  the difficulties of life; which may be a problem of the current  younger generation.

 

 

 Santa Clause apart, Christmas remains the season for giving and receiving of gifts.. The Shepherds brought some lambs and the three kings according to my Geordie Bible brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.. what myrrh wah not tellt .  There is also the understanding that God sent us the gift of Jesus. In giving presents at Christmas we are mimicking this.  This worthy concept has been usurped by hard-line commercialism

 

So hands up those who believe the accumulation of consumer luxuries increases happiness?  (shoes, dresses hand bags bling) We need to be aware that once the necessities of life are met the acquisition and consumption of more and more luxury goods adds little to our happiness.

 

The trouble for many is that the whole of the commerce, television,  advertising, and social media is successfully spending billions trying to convince us otherwise. We are psyched down to feel unhappy, inadequate or deprived unless we can acquire particular products. Young people especially feel they are not connected, not part of a scene, unless they can acquire the latest gismo or fashion item. If anyone can"™t afford all this wonderful tat on offer, then no problem, this is the mythical Never-Never land where it is all too easy to borrow money, albeit at savage rates of interest. Some people can then become enslaved to debt as well as to their acquisitive addiction. They face a harsh reality when their credit cards max out and their personal Santa  proves to be a myth. More and more young people have  become so unhappy or disillusioned  we find suicides   have increased so that it is now the highest cause of death amongst the under 35 age group. Papyrus is a charity that is trying to increase awareness of this and rotary in Spennymoor is supporting it this year.  We are not raising money but raising awareness. Please find their website and enrol for free to increase their lobby weight...

 

 

 Suicides actually increase at Christmas but we have to be careful not to confuse a correlation with a cause and  effect. There are  complex social, economic and political factors involved here. .. Acquisitions can be addictive and do give a brief high.. think shopaholic..  or think retail therapy the mythical cure for depression. Phases that have come into out language. Acquisitions can also give a feeling of being part of things ...  Feeling connected is an important protective factor for young people who may struggle if this is compromised. Unfortunately the same commercial forces that drive acquisitions  can exclude people and have also caused communities to loose their identity as many small and local high street businesses have disappeared and with their loss, communities can disintegrate.. (and rotary clubs decline) 

 

This commercial system which enslaves so many of its consumers also depends on exploitation of its producers. Millions in developing countries work like salves for long hour in dangerous conditions to provide our luxuries. Manufacturing  today goes were labour is cheap. That is a euphemism for where life is cheap.  Thomas Hood"™s nineteenth century poem stirred the conscience of the nation in Victoria times we can still parody this to day "˜that pretty dress of which you"™re proud, is for another girl her shroud"™. On top of that, while we indulge in luxuries we pollute and deplete the planet today and thereby deprive the following generations of their necessities tomorrow.

 

 

Neither God nor Rotary supports this unjust economic system. God takes the side of the exploited, the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed. Rotary requires fairness to all.. Both  have the task to overthrow the economic status quo and to do so peacefully just as slavery and child labour were abolished.   There is a prediction   that the system based on mythical money and government intervention to  benefit a select  few   will  self destruct  abruptly. In the mean time we can withdraw  consent and co-operation to bring about a more controlled  outcome.

 

 We can  consider what  drives our desires  In practical terms  the message is buy fair traded goods whenever possible. Buy sustainably  sourced  products.  Shop at the Co-op where the profit comes back to the community.  Avoid big super markets and multinationals. These siphon 80% of profits out of our local economy and redistribute it to shareholders,  and City fat cats. Especially keep away from companies known to avoid paying their taxes. When it comes to paying taxes, every little helps. Rotary traditionally would urge you to support locally owned businesses; local bakers, local butchers, local pharmacies, local filling stations, local post offices, and local brewaries. By contrast 80% of the profit made in these small business stays in and en riches the local community; it supports local families and makes the community and local economy stronger. Crucially they provide the priceless ingredient of social cohesion. We have come a long way form Christmas .. which is where rampant commercialism leads us. 

 

This brings us happily back to the definitive reason for Christmas; the birth of Christ which was the pivotal event in world history. Hands up all who believe in Jesus. It"™s a bit of a trick question as the issue is what we believe about Jesus. The Gospels carry two seemingly contradictory Christmas stories and a more rational philosophical interpretation. The first thing to say is that the popular image as portrayed in nativity plays and cribs probably did not occur. The shepherds and angels may have been there in the early hours of 25th December. Shepherds at the time were thought of as the lowest form of life and regarded in a similar way to the way we may regard gypsies today. You know the joke about a group of gypsies arriving at the pearly gates"¦.?    The three kings represented the opposite extreme of society but they didn"™t arrive until 12th night 6th January and the eastern churches celebrate Christmas then.  Between these events one important bit of Christmas is air brushed out of the popular concept . Never in a nativity play or Christmas Carol.  What happens to Jewish boys with in 8 days of birth?   The joke is that the temple were having what?"¦ a 10% off day.. and Mary could not resist it.

 

John"™s gospel gives no account of the nativity and opens with "in the beginning was the word". " Word" is not the most understandable translation of the Greek word logos which is the same root that we have in logic and all the ologies (Zoology geology) meaning knowledge. So in the beginning was logic and knowledge may be for some a more understandable a concept that an embodied God. God is portrayed as a eternal logical and an intelligence which  pre existing  the big bang. John is saying in his phraseology that and the role of Jesus is to shine a light on this understanding and explains how we should live in the light of that logic.

 

The New Testament begins with Mathews"™s long account of the genealogy of Jesus. His ancestry is traced from his father Joseph  back through David to Abraham.   This is pretty impressive. It is saying that Jesus was the true King of the Jews and had all the credentials to be the long awaited Jewish Messiah. Herod usurped as king. He was only half a Jew and an opportunistic upstart who was a puppet for the occupying Roman power. He was tolerated but not respected  and subject to continuous threat of uprising form a large section of the population intent on restoring their rightful king and achieving freedom from Roman domination. Jesus was the rightful heir. There was a small theoretical problem since Jesus had been conceived out of wedlock. Mary was a virgin in the legal sense; she was still a maid or miss  at the time of conception although married to Joseph by the time she gave birth. This does not seem to have been too much of a problem and fulfilled some old testament prophesies. If you look at the genealogy there are far more spicy breaches of propriety in there. Abraham"™s first son was to his wife"™s slave. David produce Solomon by an adulterous relationship and in another instance an heir was produce by a liaison of father and daughter in law. The three kings came to visit a Jewish King. So Jesus was then hardly of lowly birth as is sometimes portrayed and was an important political figure who would have been well connected and had a ready made following. He was born the Davidic pretender to the Jewish throne and as we know was executed as King of the Jews.

 

 

Paradoxically Christ did not found Christianity.  Jesus did however come to be considered Divine and worshiped as a God very quickly after his death and resurrection. In his life time he was not given nor claimed Divine status. Certainly those who met Jesus felt strongly as he said himself that God was acting through him and many felt they had met God in him. Not even his enemies denied his unusual powers but attributed these to the devil.   After the resurrection the majority of converts were gentiles and there was considerable debate amongst the earlier followers of Christ as to whether converts needed to become Jews first. In the end it was decided that circumcision and the strict food laws were not required and what had thus become Christianity spread rapidly amongst the surrounding pagan communities. These communities brought their own understandings. In Roman culture dead leaders and heroes were worshiped as gods. The Caesars for instance was deified. In Greek mythology there are many examples of their gods visiting earth and having liaisons with earthly virgins to produce demi gods. For new Christian converts from both of these cultures it was understandable they should regard Jesus as a god. They even took over a pagan mid winter festival to celebrate his birth where as in fact Jesus was born in lambing time  Spring.  By the time the gospels were written some 30 to 70 years after the crucifixion the divine status of Jesus was widely accepted and got interwoven into the gospels in an attempt to implant   the divinity of Christ into the nativity. In this version of events Jesus was believed to have been conceived by a virgo intacto virgin Mary and was delivered with her still retaining an intact hymen. In other words Jesus got out of the womb the same way he got out of the tomb. He was able to dematerialise and reform at will. Transubstantiation in its proper sense.   

 

Both these versions of the nativity circulated for the first three hundred years of Christianity with out any one really understanding if Christ was man or god and if so how this squared with the first commandment of the monotheist God. Eventually the Christians beat the lions and Rome officially adopted Christianity.  An official roman belief was then needed. The ecumenical council of Niecia was convened in 325 to decide the issue. You may think this was a good way to give God a laugh as  God can not be contained within our meagre intellects"¦  we attempt to do so with  all the knowledge, insight and intellectual maturity of a six year old contemplating Santa  Clause . No doubt trying to be all things to all men a 100 and more Bishops established the notion of the Trinity. Christ was all man and simultaneously all God without one state interfering with the other. Both states co-existed simultaneously. This was contentions then and still is and is beyond normal comprehension.

However just over a hundred years ago Einstein and others came up with the proof that light which had long been mathematically proven an electro-magnetic wave could also be proven to be particulate. Quantum theory required that both states could coexist simultaneously. This also is beyond normal comprehension and is an interesting correlation to conjure with but proves nothing. The probability of finding one state or the other it turned out depends on the observer and the question asked. In the post quantum universe probability is the nearest we can get. So probably it does not matter if we observe Jesus to be a God or a man ...or both. Either way it is Christ"™s  message which is crucial. This is the same what ever we believe about his person.  It is that if we live in accordance with that divine logic or divine will, that is we love each other and love and trust God, our happiness now and our eternal salvation is assured.. . It"™s all inclusive, solves all the problems we have discussed, it  starts now and lasts for ever and ever. Amen.Christmyth Message

 

I have titled this talk the christmyth message and I would like to explore  some of the myths surrounding Christmas. I should say at the outset that the message carries an X certificate in that it is not for  children of any age and may challenge some cherished believes.

I would like to consider three facets of Christmas. First of all Santa Clause, then the commercial distortion of Christmas, and finally try to unravel the mixed biblical accounts of Christmas.

 

Hands up all those who believe in Santa Clause. I can remember discussing this with   a few chums sheltering in someone"™s porch one rainy December day age six. We had heard a rumour that it was  our parents who filled the stocking and supplied the presents. We listed what we knew about Santa Clause. He is a portly old gent with a long white beard a, wears a long red gown and goes ho ho ho. He lives some where in the frozen North  and there he has a toy factory and with lots of little helpers pixies, elves and the like he makes toys to distribute to all good Christian boys and girls. On Christmas eve all these toys were piled on to a big sledge which is pulled by some very rapid reindeers that took off and flew visiting every eligible household pretty well simultaneously.  He parked the sleigh on he roof descended the chimney and filled our stockings with lots of toys. Some of these we had requested and some were not what we wanted at all. It was not easy to make sense of all this. We dismissed the theory of Santa coming down the chimney. He was too fat and would get covered with soot like a chimney sweep. We had never seen a sooty Santa. As for visiting every house hold throughout Christendom in one night well we did not really believe that. All the stores seemed to have their own Santa and we reasoned that there must be a team of local Santa"™s who did the leg work. They probably left the presents on the door step like the milkman .Perhaps our mums and dads filled the stockings. But we reasoned  there had to be a Santa Clause to account for the presents. We knew our parents too well.  It was hard to coaxes  the odd three penny Walls out of them never mind three bob for the must have Dinky toy and the Christmas munificence  was well beyond them. True that Dinky toy did sometimes turn up but often we had moved on and it was no longer the thing of the moment.  So a modified myth of Santa remained at least for one more Christmas.

 

 Later we wondered how sensible it might be for parents to deceive their kids at such a tender age about things as important to them as Santa Clause. Some children we knew were in any case terrified of Santa Clause"¦ a condition known as"¦"¦? claustrophobia. Other children were more indulged than  us and never matured enough to handle  the difficulties of life; which may be a problem of the current  younger generation.

 

 

 Santa Clause apart, Christmas remains the season for giving and receiving of gifts.. The Shepherds brought some lambs and the three kings according to my Geordie Bible brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.. what myrrh wah not tellt .  There is also the understanding that God sent us the gift of Jesus. In giving presents at Christmas we are mimicking this.  This worthy concept has been usurped by hard-line commercialism

 

So hands up those who believe the accumulation of consumer luxuries increases happiness?  (shoes, dresses hand bags bling) We need to be aware that once the necessities of life are met the acquisition and consumption of more and more luxury goods adds little to our happiness.

 

The trouble for many is that the whole of the commerce, television,  advertising, and social media is successfully spending billions trying to convince us otherwise. We are psyched down to feel unhappy, inadequate or deprived unless we can acquire particular products. Young people especially feel they are not connected, not part of a scene, unless they can acquire the latest gismo or fashion item. If anyone can"™t afford all this wonderful tat on offer, then no problem, this is the mythical Never-Never land where it is all too easy to borrow money, albeit at savage rates of interest. Some people can then become enslaved to debt as well as to their acquisitive addiction. They face a harsh reality when their credit cards max out and their personal Santa  proves to be a myth. More and more young people have  become so unhappy or disillusioned  we find suicides   have increased so that it is now the highest cause of death amongst the under 35 age group. Papyrus is a charity that is trying to increase awareness of this and rotary in Spennymoor is supporting it this year.  We are not raising money but raising awareness. Please find their website and enrol for free to increase their lobby weight...

 

 

 Suicides actually increase at Christmas but we have to be careful not to confuse a correlation with a cause and  effect. There are  complex social, economic and political factors involved here. .. Acquisitions can be addictive and do give a brief high.. think shopaholic..  or think retail therapy the mythical cure for depression. Phases that have come into out language. Acquisitions can also give a feeling of being part of things ...  Feeling connected is an important protective factor for young people who may struggle if this is compromised. Unfortunately the same commercial forces that drive acquisitions  can exclude people and have also caused communities to loose their identity as many small and local high street businesses have disappeared and with their loss, communities can disintegrate.. (and rotary clubs decline) 

 

This commercial system which enslaves so many of its consumers also depends on exploitation of its producers. Millions in developing countries work like salves for long hour in dangerous conditions to provide our luxuries. Manufacturing  today goes were labour is cheap. That is a euphemism for where life is cheap.  Thomas Hood"™s nineteenth century poem stirred the conscience of the nation in Victoria times we can still parody this to day "˜that pretty dress of which you"™re proud, is for another girl her shroud"™. On top of that, while we indulge in luxuries we pollute and deplete the planet today and thereby deprive the following generations of their necessities tomorrow.

 

 

Neither God nor Rotary supports this unjust economic system. God takes the side of the exploited, the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed. Rotary requires fairness to all.. Both  have the task to overthrow the economic status quo and to do so peacefully just as slavery and child labour were abolished.   There is a prediction   that the system based on mythical money and government intervention to  benefit a select  few   will  self destruct  abruptly. In the mean time we can withdraw  consent and co-operation to bring about a more controlled  outcome.

 

 We can  consider what  drives our desires  In practical terms  the message is buy fair traded goods whenever possible. Buy sustainably  sourced  products.  Shop at the Co-op where the profit comes back to the community.  Avoid big super markets and multinationals. These siphon 80% of profits out of our local economy and redistribute it to shareholders,  and City fat cats. Especially keep away from companies known to avoid paying their taxes. When it comes to paying taxes, every little helps. Rotary traditionally would urge you to support locally owned businesses; local bakers, local butchers, local pharmacies, local filling stations, local post offices, and local brewaries. By contrast 80% of the profit made in these small business stays in and en riches the local community; it supports local families and makes the community and local economy stronger. Crucially they provide the priceless ingredient of social cohesion. We have come a long way form Christmas .. which is where rampant commercialism leads us. 

 

This brings us happily back to the definitive reason for Christmas; the birth of Christ which was the pivotal event in world history. Hands up all who believe in Jesus. It"™s a bit of a trick question as the issue is what we believe about Jesus. The Gospels carry two seemingly contradictory Christmas stories and a more rational philosophical interpretation. The first thing to say is that the popular image as portrayed in nativity plays and cribs probably did not occur. The shepherds and angels may have been there in the early hours of 25th December. Shepherds at the time were thought of as the lowest form of life and regarded in a similar way to the way we may regard gypsies today. You know the joke about a group of gypsies arriving at the pearly gates"¦.?    The three kings represented the opposite extreme of society but they didn"™t arrive until 12th night 6th January and the eastern churches celebrate Christmas then.  Between these events one important bit of Christmas is air brushed out of the popular concept . Never in a nativity play or Christmas Carol.  What happens to Jewish boys with in 8 days of birth?   The joke is that the temple were having what?"¦ a 10% off day.. and Mary could not resist it.

 

John"™s gospel gives no account of the nativity and opens with "in the beginning was the word". " Word" is not the most understandable translation of the Greek word logos which is the same root that we have in logic and all the ologies (Zoology geology) meaning knowledge. So in the beginning was logic and knowledge may be for some a more understandable a concept that an embodied God. God is portrayed as a eternal logical and an intelligence which  pre existing  the big bang. John is saying in his phraseology that and the role of Jesus is to shine a light on this understanding and explains how we should live in the light of that logic.

 

The New Testament begins with Mathews"™s long account of the genealogy of Jesus. His ancestry is traced from his father Joseph  back through David to Abraham.   This is pretty impressive. It is saying that Jesus was the true King of the Jews and had all the credentials to be the long awaited Jewish Messiah. Herod usurped as king. He was only half a Jew and an opportunistic upstart who was a puppet for the occupying Roman power. He was tolerated but not respected  and subject to continuous threat of uprising form a large section of the population intent on restoring their rightful king and achieving freedom from Roman domination. Jesus was the rightful heir. There was a small theoretical problem since Jesus had been conceived out of wedlock. Mary was a virgin in the legal sense; she was still a maid or miss  at the time of conception although married to Joseph by the time she gave birth. This does not seem to have been too much of a problem and fulfilled some old testament prophesies. If you look at the genealogy there are far more spicy breaches of propriety in there. Abraham"™s first son was to his wife"™s slave. David produce Solomon by an adulterous relationship and in another instance an heir was produce by a liaison of father and daughter in law. The three kings came to visit a Jewish King. So Jesus was then hardly of lowly birth as is sometimes portrayed and was an important political figure who would have been well connected and had a ready made following. He was born the Davidic pretender to the Jewish throne and as we know was executed as King of the Jews.

 

 

Paradoxically Christ did not found Christianity.  Jesus did however come to be considered Divine and worshiped as a God very quickly after his death and resurrection. In his life time he was not given nor claimed Divine status. Certainly those who met Jesus felt strongly as he said himself that God was acting through him and many felt they had met God in him. Not even his enemies denied his unusual powers but attributed these to the devil.   After the resurrection the majority of converts were gentiles and there was considerable debate amongst the earlier followers of Christ as to whether converts needed to become Jews first. In the end it was decided that circumcision and the strict food laws were not required and what had thus become Christianity spread rapidly amongst the surrounding pagan communities. These communities brought their own understandings. In Roman culture dead leaders and heroes were worshiped as gods. The Caesars for instance was deified. In Greek mythology there are many examples of their gods visiting earth and having liaisons with earthly virgins to produce demi gods. For new Christian converts from both of these cultures it was understandable they should regard Jesus as a god. They even took over a pagan mid winter festival to celebrate his birth where as in fact Jesus was born in lambing time  Spring.  By the time the gospels were written some 30 to 70 years after the crucifixion the divine status of Jesus was widely accepted and got interwoven into the gospels in an attempt to implant   the divinity of Christ into the nativity. In this version of events Jesus was believed to have been conceived by a virgo intacto virgin Mary and was delivered with her still retaining an intact hymen. In other words Jesus got out of the womb the same way he got out of the tomb. He was able to dematerialise and reform at will. Transubstantiation in its proper sense.   

 

Both these versions of the nativity circulated for the first three hundred years of Christianity with out any one really understanding if Christ was man or god and if so how this squared with the first commandment of the monotheist God. Eventually the Christians beat the lions and Rome officially adopted Christianity.  An official roman belief was then needed. The ecumenical council of Niecia was convened in 325 to decide the issue. You may think this was a good way to give God a laugh as  God can not be contained within our meagre intellects"¦  we attempt to do so with  all the knowledge, insight and intellectual maturity of a six year old contemplating Santa  Clause . No doubt trying to be all things to all men a 100 and more Bishops established the notion of the Trinity. Christ was all man and simultaneously all God without one state interfering with the other. Both states co-existed simultaneously. This was contentions then and still is and is beyond normal comprehension.

However just over a hundred years ago Einstein and others came up with the proof that light which had long been mathematically proven an electro-magnetic wave could also be proven to be particulate. Quantum theory required that both states could coexist simultaneously. This also is beyond normal comprehension and is an interesting correlation to conjure with but proves nothing. The probability of finding one state or the other it turned out depends on the observer and the question asked. In the post quantum universe probability is the nearest we can get. So probably it does not matter if we observe Jesus to be a God or a man ...or both. Either way it is Christ"™s  message which is crucial. This is the same what ever we believe about his person.  It is that if we live in accordance with that divine logic or divine will, that is we love each other and love and trust God, our happiness now and our eternal salvation is assured.. . It"™s all inclusive, solves all the problems we have discussed, it  starts now and lasts for ever and ever. Amen.Christmyth Message

 

I have titled this talk the christmyth message and I would like to explore  some of the myths surrounding Christmas. I should say at the outset that the message carries an X certificate in that it is not for  children of any age and may challenge some cherished believes.

I would like to consider three facets of Christmas. First of all Santa Clause, then the commercial distortion of Christmas, and finally try to unravel the mixed biblical accounts of Christmas.

 

Hands up all those who believe in Santa Clause. I can remember discussing this with   a few chums sheltering in someone"™s porch one rainy December day age six. We had heard a rumour that it was  our parents who filled the stocking and supplied the presents. We listed what we knew about Santa Clause. He is a portly old gent with a long white beard a, wears a long red gown and goes ho ho ho. He lives some where in the frozen North  and there he has a toy factory and with lots of little helpers pixies, elves and the like he makes toys to distribute to all good Christian boys and girls. On Christmas eve all these toys were piled on to a big sledge which is pulled by some very rapid reindeers that took off and flew visiting every eligible household pretty well simultaneously.  He parked the sleigh on he roof descended the chimney and filled our stockings with lots of toys. Some of these we had requested and some were not what we wanted at all. It was not easy to make sense of all this. We dismissed the theory of Santa coming down the chimney. He was too fat and would get covered with soot like a chimney sweep. We had never seen a sooty Santa. As for visiting every house hold throughout Christendom in one night well we did not really believe that. All the stores seemed to have their own Santa and we reasoned that there must be a team of local Santa"™s who did the leg work. They probably left the presents on the door step like the milkman .Perhaps our mums and dads filled the stockings. But we reasoned  there had to be a Santa Clause to account for the presents. We knew our parents too well.  It was hard to coaxes  the odd three penny Walls out of them never mind three bob for the must have Dinky toy and the Christmas munificence  was well beyond them. True that Dinky toy did sometimes turn up but often we had moved on and it was no longer the thing of the moment.  So a modified myth of Santa remained at least for one more Christmas.

 

 Later we wondered how sensible it might be for parents to deceive their kids at such a tender age about things as important to them as Santa Clause. Some children we knew were in any case terrified of Santa Clause"¦ a condition known as"¦"¦? claustrophobia. Other children were more indulged than  us and never matured enough to handle  the difficulties of life; which may be a problem of the current  younger generation.

 

 

 Santa Clause apart, Christmas remains the season for giving and receiving of gifts.. The Shepherds brought some lambs and the three kings according to my Geordie Bible brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.. what myrrh wah not tellt .  There is also the understanding that God sent us the gift of Jesus. In giving presents at Christmas we are mimicking this.  This worthy concept has been usurped by hard-line commercialism

 

So hands up those who believe the accumulation of consumer luxuries increases happiness?  (shoes, dresses hand bags bling) We need to be aware that once the necessities of life are met the acquisition and consumption of more and more luxury goods adds little to our happiness.

 

The trouble for many is that the whole of the commerce, television,  advertising, and social media is successfully spending billions trying to convince us otherwise. We are psyched down to feel unhappy, inadequate or deprived unless we can acquire particular products. Young people especially feel they are not connected, not part of a scene, unless they can acquire the latest gismo or fashion item. If anyone can"™t afford all this wonderful tat on offer, then no problem, this is the mythical Never-Never land where it is all too easy to borrow money, albeit at savage rates of interest. Some people can then become enslaved to debt as well as to their acquisitive addiction. They face a harsh reality when their credit cards max out and their personal Santa  proves to be a myth. More and more young people have  become so unhappy or disillusioned  we find suicides   have increased so that it is now the highest cause of death amongst the under 35 age group. Papyrus is a charity that is trying to increase awareness of this and rotary in Spennymoor is supporting it this year.  We are not raising money but raising awareness. Please find their website and enrol for free to increase their lobby weight...

 

 

 Suicides actually increase at Christmas but we have to be careful not to confuse a correlation with a cause and  effect. There are  complex social, economic and political factors involved here. .. Acquisitions can be addictive and do give a brief high.. think shopaholic..  or think retail therapy the mythical cure for depression. Phases that have come into out language. Acquisitions can also give a feeling of being part of things ...  Feeling connected is an important protective factor for young people who may struggle if this is compromised. Unfortunately the same commercial forces that drive acquisitions  can exclude people and have also caused communities to loose their identity as many small and local high street businesses have disappeared and with their loss, communities can disintegrate.. (and rotary clubs decline) 

 

This commercial system which enslaves so many of its consumers also depends on exploitation of its producers. Millions in developing countries work like salves for long hour in dangerous conditions to provide our luxuries. Manufacturing  today goes were labour is cheap. That is a euphemism for where life is cheap.  Thomas Hood"™s nineteenth century poem stirred the conscience of the nation in Victoria times we can still parody this to day "˜that pretty dress of which you"™re proud, is for another girl her shroud"™. On top of that, while we indulge in luxuries we pollute and deplete the planet today and thereby deprive the following generations of their necessities tomorrow.

 

 

Neither God nor Rotary supports this unjust economic system. God takes the side of the exploited, the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed. Rotary requires fairness to all.. Both  have the task to overthrow the economic status quo and to do so peacefully just as slavery and child labour were abolished.   There is a prediction   that the system based on mythical money and government intervention to  benefit a select  few   will  self destruct  abruptly. In the mean time we can withdraw  consent and co-operation to bring about a more controlled  outcome.

 

 We can  consider what  drives our desires  In practical terms  the message is buy fair traded goods whenever possible. Buy sustainably  sourced  products.  Shop at the Co-op where the profit comes back to the community.  Avoid big super markets and multinationals. These siphon 80% of profits out of our local economy and redistribute it to shareholders,  and City fat cats. Especially keep away from companies known to avoid paying their taxes. When it comes to paying taxes, every little helps. Rotary traditionally would urge you to support locally owned businesses; local bakers, local butchers, local pharmacies, local filling stations, local post offices, and local brewaries. By contrast 80% of the profit made in these small business stays in and en riches the local community; it supports local families and makes the community and local economy stronger. Crucially they provide the priceless ingredient of social cohesion. We have come a long way form Christmas .. which is where rampant commercialism leads us. 

 

This brings us happily back to the definitive reason for Christmas; the birth of Christ which was the pivotal event in world history. Hands up all who believe in Jesus. It"™s a bit of a trick question as the issue is what we believe about Jesus. The Gospels carry two seemingly contradictory Christmas stories and a more rational philosophical interpretation. The first thing to say is that the popular image as portrayed in nativity plays and cribs probably did not occur. The shepherds and angels may have been there in the early hours of 25th December. Shepherds at the time were thought of as the lowest form of life and regarded in a similar way to the way we may regard gypsies today. You know the joke about a group of gypsies arriving at the pearly gates"¦.?    The three kings represented the opposite extreme of society but they didn"™t arrive until 12th night 6th January and the eastern churches celebrate Christmas then.  Between these events one important bit of Christmas is air brushed out of the popular concept . Never in a nativity play or Christmas Carol.  What happens to Jewish boys with in 8 days of birth?   The joke is that the temple were having what?"¦ a 10% off day.. and Mary could not resist it.

 

John"™s gospel gives no account of the nativity and opens with "in the beginning was the word". " Word" is not the most understandable translation of the Greek word logos which is the same root that we have in logic and all the ologies (Zoology geology) meaning knowledge. So in the beginning was logic and knowledge may be for some a more understandable a concept that an embodied God. God is portrayed as a eternal logical and an intelligence which  pre existing  the big bang. John is saying in his phraseology that and the role of Jesus is to shine a light on this understanding and explains how we should live in the light of that logic.

 

The New Testament begins with Mathews"™s long account of the genealogy of Jesus. His ancestry is traced from his father Joseph  back through David to Abraham.   This is pretty impressive. It is saying that Jesus was the true King of the Jews and had all the credentials to be the long awaited Jewish Messiah. Herod usurped as king. He was only half a Jew and an opportunistic upstart who was a puppet for the occupying Roman power. He was tolerated but not respected  and subject to continuous threat of uprising form a large section of the population intent on restoring their rightful king and achieving freedom from Roman domination. Jesus was the rightful heir. There was a small theoretical problem since Jesus had been conceived out of wedlock. Mary was a virgin in the legal sense; she was still a maid or miss  at the time of conception although married to Joseph by the time she gave birth. This does not seem to have been too much of a problem and fulfilled some old testament prophesies. If you look at the genealogy there are far more spicy breaches of propriety in there. Abraham"™s first son was to his wife"™s slave. David produce Solomon by an adulterous relationship and in another instance an heir was produce by a liaison of father and daughter in law. The three kings came to visit a Jewish King. So Jesus was then hardly of lowly birth as is sometimes portrayed and was an important political figure who would have been well connected and had a ready made following. He was born the Davidic pretender to the Jewish throne and as we know was executed as King of the Jews.

 

 

Paradoxically Christ did not found Christianity.  Jesus did however come to be considered Divine and worshiped as a God very quickly after his death and resurrection. In his life time he was not given nor claimed Divine status. Certainly those who met Jesus felt strongly as he said himself that God was acting through him and many felt they had met God in him. Not even his enemies denied his unusual powers but attributed these to the devil.   After the resurrection the majority of converts were gentiles and there was considerable debate amongst the earlier followers of Christ as to whether converts needed to become Jews first. In the end it was decided that circumcision and the strict food laws were not required and what had thus become Christianity spread rapidly amongst the surrounding pagan communities. These communities brought their own understandings. In Roman culture dead leaders and heroes were worshiped as gods. The Caesars for instance was deified. In Greek mythology there are many examples of their gods visiting earth and having liaisons with earthly virgins to produce demi gods. For new Christian converts from both of these cultures it was understandable they should regard Jesus as a god. They even took over a pagan mid winter festival to celebrate his birth where as in fact Jesus was born in lambing time  Spring.  By the time the gospels were written some 30 to 70 years after the crucifixion the divine status of Jesus was widely accepted and got interwoven into the gospels in an attempt to implant   the divinity of Christ into the nativity. In this version of events Jesus was believed to have been conceived by a virgo intacto virgin Mary and was delivered with her still retaining an intact hymen. In other words Jesus got out of the womb the same way he got out of the tomb. He was able to dematerialise and reform at will. Transubstantiation in its proper sense.   

 

Both these versions of the nativity circulated for the first three hundred years of Christianity with out any one really understanding if Christ was man or god and if so how this squared with the first commandment of the monotheist God. Eventually the Christians beat the lions and Rome officially adopted Christianity.  An official roman belief was then needed. The ecumenical council of Niecia was convened in 325 to decide the issue. You may think this was a good way to give God a laugh as  God can not be contained within our meagre intellects"¦  we attempt to do so with  all the knowledge, insight and intellectual maturity of a six year old contemplating Santa  Clause . No doubt trying to be all things to all men a 100 and more Bishops established the notion of the Trinity. Christ was all man and simultaneously all God without one state interfering with the other. Both states co-existed simultaneously. This was contentions then and still is and is beyond normal comprehension.

However just over a hundred years ago Einstein and others came up with the proof that light which had long been mathematically proven an electro-magnetic wave could also be proven to be particulate. Quantum theory required that both states could coexist simultaneously. This also is beyond normal comprehension and is an interesting correlation to conjure with but proves nothing. The probability of finding one state or the other it turned out depends on the observer and the question asked. In the post quantum universe probability is the nearest we can get. So probably it does not matter if we observe Jesus to be a God or a man ...or both. Either way it is Christ"™s  message which is crucial. This is the same what ever we believe about his person.  It is that if we live in accordance with that divine logic or divine will, that is we love each other and love and trust God, our happiness now and our eternal salvation is assured.. . It"™s all inclusive, solves all the problems we have discussed, it  starts now and lasts for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting Information...

We meet on Mondays at 1900 (No Meeting Bank Holidays) The Green Tree Tudhoe
Spennymoor,
County Durham DL16 6LE tel: 01388 811 856