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December 7, 2017, 1:07 PM

Are you Living BC or AD?

I am a lifelong lover and student of history.

While the study of it is far more than the mere memorization of dates, name, and places…knowing the dates of significant events is certainly an important part of it.  I even got out of a sixth grade history exam by being the only student who could answer the question, “When was the Battle of Hastings?”

Of course, we mark the years using two designations; BC and AD.  As everyone knows, BC means “Before Christ.”  For some reason, most people still seem to think AD means “After Death.”


It comes from the Latin, “Anno Domini” which means “The Year of Our Lord.”

These days, many people use the designations BCE and CE…which mean “Before the Common Era” and “Common Era.”  They see it as being more inclusive of those who do not acknowledge Jesus as the Lord.  But, the fact remains, that the turning point in the very way we mark the passage of time is the birth of Jesus.  (Which why it makes no sense that people think AD means “After Death.”)

Actually, it’s likely that our dating system is off by a few years.  Most historians think Jesus was born somewhere between 6-3 BC.  Hardly surprising.  He has always been ahead of his time!

There is virtually no reason to believe that Jesus was born on December 25.  The date to celebrate what the early church called the “Mass of the Christus”  (Christ-Mass) was chosen decades after Jesus walked the earth.  Church leaders decided that it was fitting to have a celebration of his birth, and they basically co-opted a pagan celebration known as the Saturnalia, which took place at the time of the Winter Solstice.

So, we don’t really know the day, month, or year in which Jesus was born.

Why is that?  Quite frankly, it’s because he was essentially a “nobody” to most of the world at the time of his birth.  Born to poor peasants who possessed no power or importance, he went largely unnoticed.

By the end of his life, he had achieved moderate local fame.  But, he so threatened the political and religious establishments that even bitter rivals within them colluded to destroy him in as gruesome and humiliating a way as possible. On top of that, the crowds also turned against him and bellowed for his blood.  One of his closest followers sold him out and several others deserted him.

In short, his life and ministry seemed to collapse into ignominious defeat.  He seemed doomed to sink back into obscurity, as did most people with similar stories.  There were a lot of failed messiahs whose names are lost to us.  Anonymous footnotes, at best.

Yet, this is the guy who would become so pivotal in human history that we measure that history by his coming, no matter which initials you use to mark the years before and since his appearance.

As a student of history, I cannot come up with another figure who started and lived most of his life in such obscurity, was a public figure for only a short time, and whose life seemed to end in such completely catastrophic defeat…who went on to become anything near so astonishingly influential.  Even non-Christians and totally secular commentators admit that Jesus has had an impact on the course of history which affects us all in profound ways.

He is genuinely unique.

How did that happen?

By all accounts, we should have forgotten him long ago.  But there is something about him that persists.  Something happened that caused the people who had once abandoned and betrayed him to turn around and risk (and sometimes lose) their lives and freedom for insisting  that this man was not defeated, and wasn’t even dead.  They did so, in the face of ruthless and sometimes murderous opposition from their own culture and from the mightiest empire on earth.

Let’s be clear.  They could have said, “Jesus was a good guy!  So, good that it’s like his goodness hung around after he was tortured to death.”  Such a declaration would have been seen as fairly reasonable and neither blasphemous toward the God of Israel, nor threatening to the power and prestige of the Roman Emperor.  But claiming this man who was condemned and crucified by them had more divine authority than they did was considered blasphemy and sedition.  Offenses that got you dead.  But despite the danger and the persecution, the followers of Jesus insisted on their astonishing story.

That’s why we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus 20 centuries later.

There is something compellingly, dangerously, and mysteriously unique about him.  If you dare to take him seriously, your own personal history can end up being marked by who you were before Christ, and who you become in the years when he is the Lord of your life.

So, Merry Christmas!  Take some time to ask if you’re living a BC or AD life.

(BTW…the Battle of Hastings in which William the Conqueror successfully invaded England was in the year 1066 AD.  You’re welcome.)

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