When my parents married in the late 1940s, my dad built a small house for them right alongside that of my grandparents. Seven or eight years later, with four kids and another on the way, they bought a larger existing house located across two gravel roads and a railroad track from my grandparents' house.
I remember that as youngsters, we spent a lot of evenings visiting my grandparents in their house. Ma would eventually call and say it was time to come home. As small children still very conscious of the dark, we'd usually ask her to watch us as we scampered across what, at that time, seemed like a wide and wild no-man's land between the two properties.
She'd switch on the porch light and stand outside the kitchen door on the stoop. I still remember the calming effect of seeing her form silhouetted in that light as I bounded over the ditches and tracks in my mad dash home.
I was reminded of that childhood recently. In a time when it seems all the news is bad — from acts of worldwide terrorism to gloomy economics and the prospects of a looming war — came the news in October that an empty stone burial box — or ossuary — had been discovered in Israel.
What was intriguing about this ossuary, a limestone box commonly used by Jews in the first century to hold the bones of a deceased person, was that an expert examination dated the box to the year 63 A.D. And on that box was this inscription in ancient Aramaic: “Ya'akov bar Yosef akhui diYeshua.” Translated it means “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”
Dated just 30 years or so after Jesus's crucifixion, the artifact — if authentic — would be the earliest known direct link to Jesus Christ. Though the find is certainly incredible, examination by experts hasn't thus far found anything to substantiate that the ossuary, its inscription, the language used and its appropriateness to the historical period is a hoax.
Who knows if the Jesus referred to on the ossuary really is the Son of God. But nonetheless I found it a comforting attestation in a difficult time.
Sort of like that reassuring silhouette that guided me home decades ago, the discovery of that ossuary hit me as a reminder that the Lord once walked among us on this Earth, and that He still watches over us. With all of today's trepidations, I found that awfully comforting.
Merry Christmas to you all!