Botticelli, Jobs, and Merry Christmas!

Usually Christmas is not my favorite time of the year. There are several reasons for that, but this year is different. I don’t know why but
good will is in my blood this season. My grand daughter said to me last night, “who are you and what have you done with my papa.” I think there are many people like me that struggle during this time of the year but make the best of it. This morning, however, I have been thinking about the bigger issues of Christmas. In other words, what does Christmas represent?

First of all, Christmas is a time we choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Actually based on the various concurrent ceremonies described in scripture, Jesus was probably born some time in March or April. Regardless of when we celebrate the birth of Christ the message is clear, God has given the gift of His Son as payment for our deficiencies. This reality testifies to the existence of another world, one beyond our senses, which will be experienced in a positive or negative way based upon our life here.

What got me thinking about this was a couple of articles I read this morning in the Economist and Wall Street Journal. The first is entitled “Gold, God, and forgiveness.” The article got my attention when it began, “Do bankers inevitably go to hell? What many people today merely hope will come to pass was for Christians in the early 1400s a matter of faith.” Although this article argues that usury was condemned by the early church, what it really demonstrates is the struggle between living in this world and humankind’s relationship with eternity.

To illustrate this struggle the article uses a painting by the artist Botticelli. “The Calumny” is a beautiful painting displaying King Midas struggling to overcome ignorance, suspicion, and envy to get to truth. This is an incredible allegory that conveys the intense struggle experienced in life.

The second article that got me thinking about the bigger issues of Christmas was in the Opinion section of the Wall Street Journal. Peggy Noonan relates to us the final words of Steven Jobs that were used by his sister in her eulogy. She wrote, “Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulder’s past them. Steven’s final words were: OH WOW, OH WOW, OH WOW.” Noonan then reflected, “The caps are Simpson’s [jobs’ sister] and if she meant to impart a sense of wonder and mystery she succeeded. Oh wow, is not a bad way to express the bigness, power, and force of life, and death. And of love, by which he was literally surrounded.”

As I read these words I reflected on questions someone asked me the other day about why I as a business professor and retired business person want to make an economic and social difference in this world? Why do you want to create social entrepreneurial opportunities for students? Why are you altruistic in your philosophies? The answer to those questions became very clear to me this morning.

Botticelli’s work reflected the struggle within life that we all experience. The struggle to do good or bad with the resources we have been given, while seeking truth. As I looked at this I realized that this does not need to be faced alone. And Jobs demonstrated the reality that there is something on the other side, something that we will see one day as we all cross over. In other words, there is a reason for our behavior in this life.  Not just regarding our family, friends and community, but an eternal reason too.

Everything I do in this life is flavored by my view of eternity. I have done good things and I have done bad things, but the baby, who’s birth we celebrate tomorrow, grew up and has given me an opportunity to be different then what I would have been. I think that is why my perspective is different this season.

My belief has been reinforced. Jesus Christ was born, died, and rose again for us. The reason He did this so we could pass over and say, “OH WOW, OH WOW, OH WOW.” But even more important, its so we can hear those words, “well done thou good and faithful servant.”

And that is my thought for the day!

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