RACHEL Emisoras Latinas is on the air again with Jesus Christ, here in Bethlehem, where thousands of pilgrims and tourists are flooding the streets and the markets. They’re busy buying stars, wreathes, lights, candies, figures for the manger, camels made of caramel, gifts, gifts and more gifts …
JESUS What’s the reason for so much festivity, Rachel?
RACHEL Well, the feast of the Nativity is coming soon.
JESUS What nativity?
RACHEL Yours, of course. What other one could it be?
JESUS What do you mean, mine? What are you talking about?
RACHEL Don’t play dumb… Excuse me, Jesus, I didn’t mean that, but only …
JESUS Really, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
RACHEL About December 25th, the Nativity, the anniversary of your birth. You’ve already told us that you weren’t born here in Bethlehem, but don’t tell me now that you weren’t born on December 25th.
JESUS Well, I will tell you that I wasn’t born on the 25th of December, Rachel.
RACHEL How’s that? Jesus Christ wasn’t born on Christmas?
RACHEL Friends, the person we’re interviewing continues to come up with surprises… And so, if it wasn’t December 25th, when was it? Tell us the date of your birth.
JESUS Well, … The truth is I don’t know. I have no idea.
RACHEL Your parents didn’t tell you?
JESUS No, because at that time nobody remembered those dates or celebrated them.
RACHEL What about the year you were born?
JESUS Even less do I remember that. Nobody knew how old they were in those days.
RACHEL But … don’t they say that you set out to preach when you were thirty years old?
JESUS They may well say that, but I personally don’t know how old I was when I went down to the river to be baptized by the prophet John.
RACHEL Incredible! … So, with your permission, Emisoras Latinas is going to investigate what might be the origin of the tradition of celebrating Christmas. Excuse me one moment. … By cell phone I’m going to contact Nivio Alberto Lopez, a specialist in the ancient world…. Can you hear me, Don Nivio?
NIVIO Perfectly, Rachel. I’ve been listening to your interview. By all means, give a warm greeting to Jesus Christ for me.
RACHEL I’ll do that. Now, please explain to us why the birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25th.
NIVIO That date was originally a pagan feast.
NIVIO Yes. You see, Rachel, in the northern countries during December the nights are very long. During the hardest part of winter in the times of the Roman empire, the people used to celebrate big feasts in honor of the sun, especially when the sun was beginning to overcome the darkness again and the days were becoming longer.
RACHEL And what does that have to do with Jesus Christ?
NIVIO Well, the first Christians saw Jesus Christ as a new Sun who brightened and warmed the world with his message of love and justice. So it was that some 300 years after the time of Jesus, a Pope named Liberius took advantage of those pagan feasts and declared that the principal day for celebrating them, the 25th of December, was really the birthday of Jesus Christ. That’s how the tradition began, but the date itself is arbitrary. It was decided by the Pope in Rome.
RACHEL Thank you very much, Don Nivio. We return now to Jesus Christ…. So that is to say, you don’t know exactly when you were born or how old you were at your baptism?
RACHEL And don’t you think it’s a little … how to say it? … a little strange not knowing when you came into this world?
JESUS To the contrary. It seems to me quite fitting. That way, you can celebrate every day as if it were your first. And you’ll always feel young!
RACHEL So to conclude you weren’t born in Bethlehem, and you weren’t born on December 25th. What remains, then, of Christmas?
JESUS The Sun remains, Rachel, that Sun which God makes to rise over us every day of the year.
RACHEL So, friends, with the bells of Bethlehem sounding behind me, this is Rachel Perez, reporting for Emisoras Latinas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.