Questions about Jesus Christ didn’t end with Mary and Joseph, who brought him into the world and raised him in Nazareth. They continue. The birth of Jesus has consequences that can’t be dealt with in a day.
Some of the questions appear in the readings that follows the Christmas feast, especially in the office of readings.
For example, in the reading for December 30th, the 3rd century Roman theologian Hippolytus deals with questions his society asked about Jesus Christ– similar in many ways to what our society asks today.
Why pay attention to Jesus Christ at all?
In Hippolytus’ day some denied divine revelation altogether– God was unknowable, they said. Most of his contemporaries believed strongly in a divine presence in the world.
In fact, there was a supermarket of revelations about God, a pantheon of divine beings, all acceptably true. The Roman empire itself tolerated many beliefs and systems, as long as they did not threaten the empire and its institutions.
Hippolytus called Jesus Christ the unique Word of God. “He is the Word through whom you made the universe, the Savior you sent to redeem us.” Words of Hippolytus found in our 2nd Eucharistic Prayer.
Addressing the Jews, the Roman theologian claimed the prophets spoke “dimly” about God’s Word. Now the Word made flesh speaks clearly through his humanity, and so listen to Jesus Christ.
To the gentile world, Hippolytus also spoke about the Word, Creator and Redeemer. Yet, like today, his world was awash in various philosophies and beliefs. How hear his message among so many?
We turn away quickly from the Christmas story today, too quickly, and return to the “real world.” Practical concerns have to be dealt with. Yet, how can they be dealt with if we neglect the great fundamental truths that anchor everything.
So speak out, Hippolytus and those like you, even if you’re not heard. Truth must be told, and told insistently.