ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.1
1. The Certainty of the Truth
Luke 1:3-4 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught
We live in a world of uncertainty which is strange because in so many ways we think we are in control. Science and technology have so pressed ahead in the past fifty years that one writer suggested we have been through greater changes than in all the millennia that man has lived on this earth. We have apparently made tremendous strides in nutrition and health and so we live longer. Yet still there is an uncertainty to life that we all struggle with. None of us can be absolutely certain that we will be here in a year’s time.
When it comes to the Bible, unbelieving theologians from last century created so many doubts that many who should know better, doubt. When it comes to Christmas the same doubters suggest that Christmas is an add-on to a pagan winter feast. The truth is that it was a Roman Emperor in AD 272 who established the pagan festival, but in northern Africa, Christians were already celebrating the birth date of Jesus as December 25 in AD 243, 30 years beforehand. No, the pagan festival was the add-on. Then there is the uncertainty of the date of the 25th December. One of the foremost scholars on ancient Jewish culture and sacred writings, states: “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically unfeasible”. But he’s just a scholar, so what should he know!!!!
Post-modernism, the philosophical approach of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, is all about doubting what has gone before. That’s why, before we move into these meditations based upon the Christmas story, it’s important that we face up these things. It is refreshing, in the light of the current doubt and cynicism that so often prevails, to find Luke writing about the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke was a doctor and even by the standards of those days, that made him an intellectual, and intellectuals pride themselves on investigating the truth and getting it right! Hence he says, I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning and it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, which is the language of such a person.
If only critics of the Gospels would take the same care that Luke did, we’d have a lot less critics! So, when we come to think about theses amazing events as recorded in Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospels (Matthew has some equally good reasons for believing what he wrote), how about coming to the Christmas story with a new sense of openness that is willing to accept what a careful, intellectual scholar like Luke says.
Last century, a solicitor by the name of Morrison, decided to debunk the Gospels and carried out a serious investigation, which resulted in a book called, “Who Moved the Stone?” written by a man clearly converted to the truth of the Gospels. There are others we could cite (e.g. J.B.Phillips) who have had the same experience. Writer and evangelist, Michael Green, speaks of an atheist he met at a party, a clever man doing doctoral studies in physics. Green asked the man if he had ever read the Gospels with an open mind. The man replied, “I dare not.”
Dare we come and risk this same experience, of being confronted so powerfully by the truth, that we’ll never be the same again? That’s what open-mindedness does. It enables you to look the truth in the eye and realize that that is what it is – the truth! Risk it, read along open-minded this Advent.