By Dr. Jim Ferguson
Sometimes I don’t have a lot to say. This may come as a surprise because I’ve been cobbling 1000 word stories together every week for ten years. Some of my detractors may even welcome the prospect of my silence.
It has been my modus operandi to wait for stories to find me, but as I begin this essay on December 6, 2016, nothing has surfaced. This happened once before many years ago. I remember beginning that essay without a theme. My English teachers would cringe at that admission.
I don’t think I’m suffering from what some have called writer’s block. I could always write about some arcane medical issue. However, none currently interests me. I subscribe to an online medical textbook/compendium of medical knowledge that is now the standard reference. I even scanned their section, “What’s New,” but nothing captivated me.
So what should I do? Like many of you, I’ve lately been consumed by politics, but I’m sick of politics. I will say that the positive comments of my recent columns have outweighed the naysayers five to one.
As I mentioned some weeks ago, I’ve seriously considered retiring from this weekly column. However, after a lot of soul searching, I finally came to the conclusion that it was my duty to carry on because so many others (soldiers, police, firefighters) do so much more than me. When I graduated from high school in 1969 I registered for the draft, but I was never called. That was a time when our military was winding down after the Vietnam war. As a result, I never served our country, at least not until I got a gig at The Knoxville Focus.
Some years ago, my daughter told me of a fortune she received from a fortune cookie. It read, “Start writing; the answers will come.” I have this subscription verbiage below my signature on emails. As I reflected on this, my story began. Perhaps the Spirit does “intercede with groans too deep for words.”
Seventy-five years ago my dad was a naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier, Yorktown. His ship was three days out from Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese launched their sneak attack on our forces in Hawaii. The Japanese were looking for carriers, but had to settle for the Arizona and other battle ships because all the carriers were at sea. I’m sure if the Yorktown had been in Pearl Harbor, it would have been attacked and my Dad would have probably been killed, and I would never have been born. As a result, December 7, “a day of infamy,” is more important for me than is D-Day (June 6th, 1944) or even 9-11 (2001).
This is the Christmas Season, though some demand we ban the “reason for the season” and His name. The politically correct and minority crowd demand that we use the term Happy Holiday or Winter Holiday. I say, “No,” and then wish them a Merry Christmas. I refuse to omit Christ’s name or allow the tail to wag the dog. Some say we should be sensitive and not hurt some snowflakes’ feelings. Well, what about hurting my feelings or the Christ’s? To paraphrase Jesus, if you are ashamed of me, then I’ll be ashamed of you (Luke 9:26).
Actually, I don’t think anyone can “hurt” the feelings of God/Christ/Spirit. Anthropomorphism is the term of ascribing human characteristics and feelings to something non human or the Deity. The word is of Greek origin and translates as “human form.” Attaching human characteristics to God is considered “an innate tendency of human psychology.” After all, what else can we do, but describe things in terms of what we know or can conceive?
As a Christian I believe God made himself more knowable by taking human form 2000 years ago. How this came about is told in the first two chapters of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels. The notion that Jesus was born and lived as a man, and at the same time was Divine, is complicated. It took the Church three hundred years to comprehend and reconcile this mystery. The Nicene Council was convened by the Roman Emperor, Constantine, and was given a mandate to wrestle with and codify orthodox Christian beliefs. The resulting Nicene Creed in 325 and then the Apostle’s Creed in 390 AD continue to describe the mystery and majesty of God and Christ.
My wife Becky has a crèche which is special. She got a “real deal” on this beautiful terra cotta manger scene, but then we discovered why: there was no Joseph. Every year seeing this creche makes me think of fathers and dads. We usually consider these two male descriptors as synonyms, but I see nuanced differences. Fathers can be defined in a paternity suit as the male donor of DNA to a child. However, my go-to definition of “fathers” is the traditional one of raising and nurturing their kids. This definition coincides with the word “dad” as someone present to support the family and their kids. This nuanced definition defines Jesus’ father, Joseph. He was there for Jesus and helped him “grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).
The mystery of Jesus’ paternity flummoxes many. As a science guy I could demand a DNA analysis, but genetics wasn’t a science until Gregor Mendel began studying peas in the 1850s. After much study and contemplation, I’ve concluded there are things I don’t know and may never know. As a result I look at the big picture more than the minutiae. Paul, no shoddy philosopher, said the same thing in
I Corinthians 13:12. Joseph was Jesus’ dad/father from birth until at least his 12th birthday. Joseph then disappears from the pages of history, but not without leaving his mark on Jesus, the most influential person in all of history. And we know of Joseph by seeing the virtue of Jesus.
Christmas is a time of secular fun and religious solemnity. It’s not either/or; it’s both, just as our reality is defined by both science and religion.
I say the Apostle’s Creed with conviction. I celebrate fathers who give of themselves to their children and the next generation. I hope to meet my Dad, the author of tough love and honor, again someday. Until then I thank him for his gifts to me and I praise the Father who gave himself to us all.
If you liked this essay, try my book of essays, “Well…What Did the Doctor Say?” It is available online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and is a great stocking stuffer!