BCE/CE

Ask the next person you see what year it is, if you dare. Endure the look you’ll get in return and wait for their answer. More than likely (unless they’re crazier than you are), they’ll eventually humor you and respond, “2009”.

And then, if you’re feeling even more audacious, go ahead and ask them why it’s 2009. What was it that happened 2009 (or so) years ago?

If they happen to give you the right answer (there’s really only one), and you’re feeling like a certified nuthouse loon, then you might as well go all the way and ask, “Why was that birth significant enough to split time in half, from BC to AD?”

From there, you’ll be standing at the threshold of a conversation that–let’s say it–is the centerpiece of sanity. Know and believe the answer and you’ve got a rock to stand on in this quicksand world. Dispute, refute, and dismiss the truth and well….good luck and good night.

I was recently reminded of the different views on that miraculous birth; the one that happened some 2009 years ago. There are abbreviations that we all recognize in connection with the calendar year: BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini = “In the year of our Lord”) But there are variations of these abbreviations. In an attempt not to “offend” or “bother” non-Christians, there is the dechristianated version, BCE and CE or “Before Common Era” and “Common Era” respectively.

Now, as a Christian, you might think that I would put this on the same level as saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” (which by the way is not a hill I’m willing to die on). But rather if we look closer and deeper, the impotus behind the change from BC to BCE and AD to CE is one that is driven by inclusiveness. Now, stick with me here because it gets hairy and you very well may disagree with my line of thinking, which is entirely your prerogative.

Read Matthew 1:1-16. Its the part of the birth story that most people skip. It’s as boring as watching someone else’s home movies or looking at a stranger’s yearbook. It’s a lineage list of “so and so was the father of so and so and so and so was the father of so and so and so and so was the father of so and so who was the father of so and so….” See, you started dozing off during that last sentence, didn’t you?

But upon closer inspection of the genealogy list, we see a couple peculiarities. First of all, did you know that 5 women were included in that long list? “So what?” you say? Silly you. It’s peculiar because women weren’t listed in genalogies; only men were. No offense, ladies. It’s just the way things were. So the fact that Matthew (a sturdy Jew himself) included 5 women was more than noteworthy. But then Matthew climbs aboard the crazy train when you realize that 3 out of 5 of those women were Gentiles! Matthew included these women as an indication that Jesus the Messiah (meaning “Annointed One”) didn’t only come for the nation of Israel, but for all people, men and women alike. Jesus came for the common, the “vulgus” as it was in Latin, those who were not royal, those who were the Joe and Jane Schmoes. Jesus the Messiah came for you and for me, the commoners, the nobodies, the everybodies. Jesus was and is the very epitome of inclusiveness!

So, feel free as some do to have CE stand for “Christian Era”. You’re well within your rights and no one will fault you. But if you’d like to grapple with the true sense of Jesus’ incarnation and mission and the pounding of God’s heart that “It is not God’s will that any should perish, but that all come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), then you might be okay with the shift from AD to CE.

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