The majority of Christians believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Israel, the son of Jewish parents, Mary and Joseph, a carpenter, who had travelled from Nazareth to pay their annual taxes. Mary gave birth, so the story goes, on the 25th December in a stables and Christian countries mark that as the beginning of their calendar, in a similar manner that Buddhists and Muslims mark the birth of their spiritual leaders as the beginning of their calendars.
However, not very much is really known about Jesus and nothing is known about him from his own hand. The nearest we can get to him are books or gospels written some time after his death by alleged disciples. He was almost certainly not born in the year one, or dot as it should have been, but four years earlier.
There is little to nothing known about him for the first thirty years of his life and then when he was thirty-two he was baptized by John the Baptist. Being Jewish himself, John the Baptist was continually on the look out for the Messiah and he saw Jesus as that Messiah.
Jesus was unlike other ministers of the time in that he worked chiefly among the poor, although it is very doubtful that he came from a deprived family himself. He was after all from the House of David, the ruling royal family of the day and age.
Within a couple of years of ministering to the poor and calling himself the son of God, he was arrested by the Roman and Jewish ruling class and, as most Christians believe, crucified. After three days he rose from the dead and after forty days his spirit went up into Heaven to sit at the right hand of his father, God.
Christians see their Bible as an extension of Judaism rather than a denial or a breaking away from it. It is to be expected that the first followers of Jesus were ostracized by traditional Jewish leaders as a break-away sect and in many ways that is what Christianity still is to this day, although it now has more followers than Judaism.
The Christian Bible is in two sections, the Old Testament, which correlates to the Jewish Bible or Masorah and the New Testament, which relates to the time after Jesus' birth which is not included in the Masorah.
The most important part of the New Testament by far is the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of these gospels shows Jesus, his life and his teachings from the personal standpoint of the author, all of them having been one of Jesus' apostles.
The basis of Christian belief is: 1] that Jesus was the embodiment of God on Earth; 2] atonement - ie that Jesus' death atoned for the sins of all mankind in eternity, so we can all go to Heaven; 3] that the one God has three aspects: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.
After that it gets a bit difficult.
The end of lent, the fasting season of the Christian calendar, culminates on Easter Sunday. If you've given up sweets, or chocolate, or taken to doing something extra during the lent period, Easter Sunday is the day that you cans top and go back to eating those beloved sweet treats. If your household is anything like mine, breakfast on Easter Sunday consists of cracking open your Easter eggs and munching on chocolate.
However, it's not just a day to eat chocolate - it's also a real family day and the bank holiday either side of the weekend means that you get a lovely and relaxing four days off work to enjoy time with your loved ones. So get the whole family together this Easter and rustle up a delicious, home-cooked meal.
One-pot roast chicken
Serves 4 people
Ingredients: 1 chicken (1.6kg), 50g softened butter, 500g bag new potatoes, 1 tbsp olive oil, 150g pack carrots, 140g broad beans, 100g defrosted frozen peas, handful of roughly-chopped mixed herbs (mint, tarragon, parsley, chives)
How to make:
1. Preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Place the chicken in a medium sized roasting dish or tin. Press some of the softened butter in to the chicken breast skin and spread over the breasts without tearing the skin. Rub the rest of the butter all over the outside of the chicken, season well and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, wash the new potatoes, pat them dry and toss them in a bowl with the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Once the chicken comes out of the oven, scatter the potatoes around it and toss again with the juices in the dish. Put back in to the oven for another 30 minutes.
3. Stir in the carrots and put in to the oven again, this time for 20 minutes.
4. Check the chicken is cooked by piercing the thigh and checking that the juices run clear. If not, pop back into the oven for a further 10 minutes. Stir in the broad beans and peas, add a splash of water and put back in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
5. It's important to not cut the chicken too soon once it's finished cooking because the water will completely run out, leaving it tasting dry. Keep chicken moist and flavoursome by letting it rest for 10 minutes before cutting in to it. Scatter over the herbs before serving.
And there you have it, a delicious hearty meal with not a chocolate egg in sight!
The topic of religion is often a touchy one, and often results in an apathetic discussion at best. However, no one can deny the prevalent influence that religion plays in many people's lives. In the Western world, Christianity still dominates as the most popular religion among millions of people. And it is impossible not to recognize the many significant roles Christianity has played throughout history, whether it be through politics and government, wars and crusades, social structures, ideologies, and of course, personal convictions and practices.
Although Christian practices may be waning in several parts of the world, many people throughout the world are just as devout believers as ever have been before. Christianity continues to retain a strong presence in the world, even after thousands of years of history, as is evident by the many Christian symbols visible on streets, buildings, and elsewhere. And the most popular symbol of Christianity is the cross.
The Christian cross is by far the best-known Christian symbol, which often features atop church buildings, on walls and street corners, and on cross necklace jewelry. The symbol of the Christian cross has a long and interesting history that culminated to the present time in which, for Christian followers, the cross represents faith in Christ and is a symbol of hope in salvation through Christ.
Literally, the cross is a replica of the instrument on which Christ was killed. But it's important to note that the symbol of the Christian cross is different than a crucifix. A crucifix is a cross that includes a representation of Jesus' body and represents the crucifixion of Christ. On the other hand, while the cross still represents the instrument on which Christ was killed, it does not feature a representation of the Jesus' body. The absence of Christ's body makes the cross more of a symbol of Christ's resurrection and the hope for life after death and salvation, rather than merely a symbol of death.
In early Christianity, the cross was seldom used as a hopeful symbol, as it directly correlated in most people's mind to a painful and gruesome method of public execution that still occurred during the first two centuries of Christianity. Instead of the cross, Christianity was most often symbolized by a fish representation called the Ichthys.
However, as is made evident by early writings, the cross was associated with the Christian movement from as early as the second century, and there is evidence that the tradition of tracing the cross on foreheads was popular among Christians. Despite the introduction of the cross into worship practices, many early Church Fathers had to frequently defend themselves against the accusations that they worshipped the cross. There is also evidence that many of the early Christian faith used to swear by the power of the cross.
But early protestations against the use of the cross were not uncommon. Some church leaders condemned the sign of the cross, believing that it had pagan origins. Indeed, cross-like symbols were used prior to Christianity in several different religious rituals and practices. Eventually, the cross lost its pagan associations, and during the 5th century, the first Christian cross appeared on a piece of Christian architecture.
Interestingly, the first Christian crosses were not of the same shape that we are used to seeing today. The first crosses were Greek crosses which had four arms, all of equal length. Later, crosses in the shape of a "T" became common, and finally, the Roman cross, which is the cross most of us are familiar with today, became the Christian cross most prevalent among artwork and architecture.
Since the symbol's inception, the popularity of the cross grew first among Catholicism, which places a great deal of emphasis on the use of symbols and tradition, and then among Protestantism. And the popularity of the symbol continues to grow into the present time. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox, and some members of Lutheranism and even some Anglicans and Protestants makes the sign of the cross on themselves as a sign of devotion and faith. And there are even a few Christian holidays that commemorate the cross.
In addition, during religious celebrations such as Easter, First Communion, baptism, and other Catholic and Protestant events, it is common to give cross necklace jewelry to loved ones to symbolize their faith, and many Christians adorn their homes with crosses.
The symbol of the cross is now farther removed from the notion of a painful and excruciating death and holds a variety of related meanings and reminders. The cross can be viewed as symbol of self-denial, as the Bible records that Christ asked his followers to take up their cross and follow him, indicating that those who believe in Christ should sacrifice their worldly ambitions and lead a life devoted to God.
The cross is also a symbol of the shame and suffering that Christ overcame out of love for humankind. The Christian cross serves as a reminder to believers all that Christ suffered in order to overcome death and provide salvation to his followers.
However, the cross is most often construed as a representation of God's love and Christ's sacrifice and atonement that took place at Calvary. Hence, the cross also symbolizes God's reconciliation with humankind. The absence of Christ's body on the cross also symbolizes Jesus' victory over sin and death and that through him, humanity can also overcome death and achieve salvation.
The symbol of the Christian cross is a powerful representation for many Christian believers. The symbol has lasted centuries and is likely to last for several centuries to come. Although Christian practices may have evolved and changed, the symbol of the Christian cross has retained its singular importance in the Christian religion, and for those who believe in Christianity, the cross is a powerful representation of faith, devotion, and salvation.