The Forgotten Christmass Gospel
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He looked at the bit of papyrus in his hand as he walked. “Every year for 40 years!” he thought to himself. Thessi was still the essence of youth it seemed, still a raven haired beauty with her lithe figure. He patted his tummy and thought, I am not that young, fit and trim legionnaire that took her as his bride. He alone, it seemed, had found true love with a woman, something Roman legionnaires rarely found among their brides of war they married. Thessi (named for her region) was like many wives – half Greek, half Roman. Thessalonica had been under peaceful Roman dominion for almost two hundred years. At the time it was 40 years after the Great Census of Augustus. That great movement of people was long ago history – the only hiccup in peace had been that radical Pilate had to execute a decade before they married.
She bore him three fine sons, all of whom were now serving as commanders of rank in the Roman Army – one in Egypt, one in Spain, and one in Rome itself. His family was well-place, he thought. Of course, he too had risen in rank quickly – Thessi serving the Head Regent had assured that. And when her Regent shifted to Rome, Ty got orders to ride with them to his new post in Rome, commanding the great Caesar’s guard guarding the walls or Rome, no less. The only change had been – Thessi got very secretive about her worship of her Logos god. In Rome, it was a taboo subject for all. That deranged emperor Caligula the Senate had approved some 40 years ago, had actually had Rome set afire and blamed the Christians. Emperors since (“All of them were kind of whacked out,” thought Ty) had persecuted Christians after that. Paul lost his head. His successor, Peter, preached for some time in the catacombs, but was eventually caught and crucified – but he had kept preaching openly in the streets. Somehow the physician Luke had avoided execution, but as a Gentile citizen and a doctor, he kept his head. He took to the catacombs and avoided public exposure.
As in Thessalonica and now Rome, Thessi continued being in charge of arranging the new, but great feast of Saturnalia – for her Regent hosted it near the end of every year. She was overseer over all of it. The priests, dressed in special garments, would lay out the god in effigy in the large reclining sofa in the banquet hall of the Temple, to show he was partaking of the great feast, too. Candles were everywhere, for it was a Feast of Lights, and of revealing, too. Revealing of what, Ty never could figure out. There were great feastings and much, much new wine, and it culminated on the 23rd with the Feast of Lights, the food and drink and any exhortations by the priests done by candle light, and then – gifts were passed out to all. Thessi had quite a responsibility, so when she would tell Ty she was off to the catacombs near midnight on the 24th, he would gladly see her safely to her secret entrance. He could have gotten further promotions had he revealed Luke and the special catacomb, to the emperor, but it would have destroyed his marriage and his whole life. Thessi had been true as her sect demanded she be faithful to her husband, and he loved her far, far too much to betray her trust!
Two years ago, after Thessi’s many years of patiently asking, Ty finally agreed to join her at midnight. She told him his worries about his uniform were no worry at all, telling him of the legionnaire whose servant’s child Jesus had healed, and who later call Jesus the Son of God at that bloody crucifixion of Pilate’s, of Jesus.
Two years ago he heard about Matthew’s story of that syphilitic ass Herod, going around butchering children to get Jesus, who was also called King of Jews for some reason He never knew why, but he knew Herod was an ass who did the whole kingdom a favor by dying soon after.
Last year, he heard the longer, most moving tale told by Luke, in Luke own words in the catacomb. Luke had kept on keeping his head, and Ty thought the story he told was one of the most moving he had ever heard. Better than anything about any Roman or Greek god. But he still couldn’t see what made Thessi so faithful after all these years.
She mentioned faith in Jesus all the time. It somehow didn’t strike him as necessary. But today as he shopped for his bride, his soul deeply troubled him. She persuaded him to go last Sunday night – before her Christmas worship, because there was a very special preacher there for just the one night.
He went, and nothing had been the same since. It was John, who officially and supposedly was exiled to the island of Patmos, and was to have long ago supposed to drop dead, according to everyone. John sat behind the local priest on the back wall while the local priest led the flock in song. This man was nowhere near dead – white robe and long, pure white hair and beard – but it was his eyes! – twin beans of energized light that caused even the candles themselves to burn brighter! This man was very much alive, far from dead, and not one of them there, not even John, could know of the magnificent writing that he would yet pen in 5 years about angels and Jesus and the end days and what was called the Last Day. Tyronius, standing next to his bride in the back of the room, just stared, and then, John’s eyes got even brighter as he stood and his ultra-bright eyes seemed to bore into Ty’s directly, and he began to preach what he called his newest Christmas story.
And Ty knew, in that very moment, his life never would, never could be – the same!
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John 1:1-18 (read sermonically!)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome the dark.
2 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory of the of the only begotten of God, full of grace and truth. Amen.