Santa Claus is coming and the kids are getting greedy.
It’s Christmas Time
They know what’s in the store because they’ve seen it on the TV
It’s Christmas Time
It used to be the birthday of the man who saved our necks
But now it stands for Santa Claus – they spell it with an “X”
— Christmastime, Larry Norman (1947-2008)
So – another Christmas season is upon us. I was up by the Commissary a few days ago when I spotted a Nativity scene by the entrance. It contained the baby Jesus in the manger, Mary and Joseph kneeling in worship/prayer, and 3 Wise Men bearing gifts. I said to myself, I said, “Self – what a nice thought to put such a (now) controversial piece of work here, but it’s wrong on so many levels.”
Before I get into what is wrong with this particular Nativity scene, and many of them in general, I just want to state, for the record, that most people are lazy, and are more willing to “go with the flow,” rather than break out and do things on their own. As a result, there are people that have broken out of the status quo, and actually prey (not pray) on those that haven’t. Let’s call the predators “Wolves,” and maybe we’ll call the others “Sheeple.” You’ll probably think, “well, I don’t follow everyone else, so I’m not sheeple.” Don’t be so sure. If you receive an email from a trusted friend or relative, and it was forwarded to them from another friend or relative, and if that email contains a “true” story about some person or event, and you forward it thinking that since it sounds realistic, if a little quirky, then YOU”RE SHEEPLE! For awhile I was getting inundated with emails about President Obama/Bush/Clinton that rang of truth, and almost always began with, “This is the honest truth! This really happened,” and then in fact, didn’t – at least not the way it was reported. Except for once – a particular day of weakness – every time I get an email like that (and you can always tell by the number of times it’s been forwarded) first place I check is Snopes (www.snopes.com). This site handles just about every story that’s been circulated since even before the web came into existence. Factcheck.org is another site popular to verify political tales. By the same token, sheeple don’t question what they see on TV or the web, hear on the radio, or view in real life. Getting back to today’s subject (which has to do with Christmas and the Nativity), I would be willing to bet that many of you would fail a typical 10 question quiz about the celebration of Christmas, because you never bothered to check for yourself.
In fact, here’s a quiz that I just made up. All of these questions I derived from reading the Bible, but those of you who attended Sunday school in your youth should know these answers:
The birth of Jesus is covered in how many books in the New Testament:
What did Mary do when she found out that she was to be the mother of Jesus?
- She ran off to see her cousin
- She announced the news to her village
- She slept with her husband
- She and Joseph started considering names for the child.
What was Joseph’s reaction to discovering that his fiancée, Mary, was pregnant?
- He beat her
- He married her to avoid the shame of being an unwed mother.
- He wanted to break up and send her away
- He announced the news to his village
Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus’ birth (i.e. she did not have intimate relations with her husband)
What city or town was Jesus born in?
Why was Jesus born there?
- Because that’s where Joseph and Mary lived
- Because they were passing through when Mary into labor
- Because they had to register for a census
- Because Joseph received a job offer there
What was different about Jesus’ birthplace?
- Kings and Queens visited him
- Light from Heaven fell on him
- He was born in a stable and had a feeding trough as a bed
- He smiled at a little drummer boy
How many wise men (kings/magi) visited Jesus at his birthplace?
How did the wise men know of Jesus’ birth?
- They were in the region and heard about his birth
- An angel of the Lord informed them
- There was a new star in the sky
- Balaam’s donkey told them
Where did Jesus and his family flee to when King Herod was trying to kill him?
1. b (Matthew, chapters 1-2, and Luke, chapters 1-2)
2. a (Luke 1:39-56)
3. c (Matthew 1:19-24)
4 b (Matthew 1:25, Matthew 13:55, Mark 3:31, Mark 6:3)
5 c (Matthew 2:1, Luke 2:4-7)
6 c (Luke 2:1-4)
7 c (Luke 2:7)
8 a (Matthew 2:11 – Jesus was most likely about 2 years old by then and the wise men visited him in the house. Also, in Matthew 2:7-16 Herod asked the wise men when they had first seen the sign, and based on what they told him, ordered the death of all children in Bethlehem and the nearby coasts 2 years old and under, which would indicate that Jesus was certainly not an infant.
9 c (Matthew 2:1-2)
10 a (Matthew 2:13)
So, here’s what I saw wrong with that Nativity at the commissary.
1. Mary was kneeling in prayer or praise at the manger. Although it’s possible, it isn’t particularly logical to think that she was anything but in a prone position.
2. When Jesus was born that’s when the wise men headed west, and they went to Jerusalem first, and then followed the star to Bethlehem, and into a house. In fact, the book of Matthew completely skips the Nativity – doesn’t mention the inn, the manger, or shepherds watching their flock at night. And, the book of Luke doesn’t mention the wise men.
3. Already mentioned it – the visitors that Jesus did have, other than Joseph and Mary, were shepherds, that had been notified by an angel, of the birth.
So, what would my idea of a nativity be? Well, we could keep it in a barn since we know that there was no room for them in the inn or house that they went to. The wise men should be nowhere around. Joseph would be there, as well as Mary, though probably lying down, and a couple of shepherds on site. I could also picture a bright light from above indicating that Heaven is also watching.
The story of the wise men is also kind of funny. First, nowhere in the bible does it say how many of them there were. The number 3 is apparently based on the number of gifts that they gave (gold, frankincense, and myrrh), but there could have been a caravan of 20, and they could have brought chests of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh in their original tree-forms.
We have these ideas in our heads that the birth of Jesus happened at a particular way, in a particular place, and woe to the people who try to change our views. Wouldn’t it be interesting to actually be able to go back 2000 and more years ago, and be one of those shepherds. Maybe Jesus was born in a house – maybe a common room – it was not uncommon to bring the animals in at night, and there would likely have been a feeding trough (manger) there, although the addition of the shepherds may have caused issues. That, and the lack of other visitors (guests of the inn). I only wish we knew more – there is so little mentioned, and the bible has such a stigma attached to it. Folks think it’s hard to read (it isn’t), or that it’s contradictory (anything can be contradictory when taken out of context). Maybe you don’t own one. Go online. Biblegateway.com has a whole bunch of different versions in a bunch of different languages (www.biblegateway.com/versions/). No need to be afraid of it – it won’t bite. Might even be an interesting experience.
Anyway, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and I hope you also have a safe & Happy New Year as well!