I have just celebrated my 82nd Christmas. Well perhaps celebrated is putting it a mite strongly. Apart from a delicious lunch with our favourite neighbours on Boxing Day and another in a country pub on Christmas Eve we spent it sipping champagne, watching some splendid TV – little of it current productions which plumbed new depths of banality. Even banality can have depth in TV land.
In place of a paper hat I wore the livery of the S.A.S. (The Scrooge Appreciation Society which I founded many years ago), a woolly hat emblazoned ”Bah Humbug”, carpet slippers and capacious track suit bottoms.
It would not be true to say that I dislike Christmas. Dislike? No. Loathe? Yes.
Christmas is a children’s festival which over the past half century grown-ups have gradually corrupted. Only a child has the perception to accept the duality of Santa Claus and loving fathers or the whole fairy fiction of Christ’s birthday. No shepherds would be watching their flocks in the depth of winter: there is no nutritious new grass to chew; sheep spent the winter corralled in sheep folds. It is impossible to collect taxes in December because there is nothing left to tax. Taxes are collected in September when the granaries are full and the fruit and vegetables have been gathered in and sold. Finally there was no comet showing the way to the manger. Chinese astronomical charts go back through recorded time and the only major comet activity was in September 4 AD when historians believe Christ was born. House of David? Very likely. In the highlands clan members were traditionally related to their chief, literally the Father of His Clan.
Virgin Birth? That was tried as a defendant’s plea in a High Court divorce court in London in the ‘20s. It was thrown out by the judge. One of my princely Welsh ancestors raped a nun and St David was the result. The nun was later canonised as St Non and in St David’s in Pembrokeshire there is the ruin of a chapel at the place where the rape took place. Latin authors claimed a similar fate befell Mary. The Talmud claims Jesus's actual father was a Roman soldier called 'Panthera' .The union occurred during a punitive expedition led by the general Varus.
The Jewish historian Josephus mentions three characters who people thought were messiahs and who were crucified by the Romans: Yehuda of Galilee (6 CE), Theudas (44 CE), and Benjamin the Egyptian (60 CE). It is possible that the Jesus story is partly based on their lives.
People are still rewriting religious truths. A Welsh chum of mine, the Reverend Geraint ap Iorwerth, was never happy with a Holy Trinity of “two he’s and an it“.
Forty years ago he founded the Order of Sancta Sophia which sees God as the Divine Feminine. Believers from all over the world visit first his website and then make pilgrimages to the Church of Wales’ St Peter ad Vincula at Pennal, near Aberdovey, where he is rector. ap Iorwerth told me: “People are fed up with traditional religious structures. The church is dying because most people live outside the old religious commitments. Less than eight per cent of people in Wales go to church or chapel on Sundays so there has got to be something wrong.
“I still function as a traditional Anglican priest for those who see me in that role, but I promote the ancient Celtic church as well. It was gentler and more tolerant. They are more in touch with the feminine and more akin to the Eastern Church. Praise and thanksgiving rather than doom, gloom and hell fire.
“The Wisdom of God, always feminine, can bring people together. She is almost like a Divine Consort. Pennal is where Christ and Sophia dance together.”
They dance in greatly altered surroundings. Next to the altar is a sanctuary dedicated to all religions with an icon of the Divine Wisdom from the Byzantine church. A barn has been converted into an Ashram. There are sacred trees in the churchyard and a slate picnic table which doubles as an altar. Nearby is a barbecue and a bonfire site where, on all major feast days, fires are lit as they would have been in pre-Christian times to celebrate Midsummer (Feast of St John the Baptist) and the Celtic New Year (All Hallows’ Eve).
The Rector says: “I don’t think there is one true faith. The Cosmic Christ is beyond all religions. Who are we to limit his Person? He came to teach humility and we are arrogant to say there is no True Love in other religions.
“How can we claim an exclusive line to God when every religion gives you a different perspective of Truth? God would have been daft to leave it all to Christianity.
“I am on the fringe of orthodox religion and content to stay there following the Celtic tradition of going out to help where help is needed.”