by Preston Stewart
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At Sunnybrook this month we decided to have Christmas. That’s right, its April and we are doing Christmas! It’s not as odd as you may think, but we will get to that in a bit. Allow me to share a verse, John 1:10 says He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him (NIV). It’s so appropriate John says this in reference to Jesus’ birth. When December comes we may say Jesus is the reason for this season but do we really show it? I mean we are so distracted by gifts, trees, get-togethers, lights that I think Jesus fades into the background of the season. The purpose of this post is to truly recognize Jesus.
I love movies that are based on true stories. However, I have learned that these true story movies have some fiction in them, a little Hollywood spice to make the movie more engaging. Some stories are altered just for convenience. After watching a movie based on true events I go to a website called chasingthefrog.com. This website questions the story and gives you a much clearer idea of what actually happened. So let’s use Chasing the Frog’s model and take a deeper look at the Christmas story we hear so frequently. Let’s question what we hear in Christmas songs, what we see in Christmas plays and nativities and compare it to the Bible. Let’s discover the real story of Christmas so that we can truly recognize Jesus whenever you choose to celebrate His birth.
Let’s just start with the typical story we tend to have portrayed to us at Christmas time…
About 2000 years ago, the evening of December 25, Mary rides into Bethlehem on a donkey, urgently needing to deliver her baby. Although it’s an emergency, all the innkeepers turn them away. So they deliver baby Jesus in a stable. Afterwards, three kings and three wise men join them and worship the quiet, newborn.
Sound about right? Alright, let’s question the story and use only the Bible and some common sense.
Did Mary ride into Bethlehem on a donkey?
Although movies and plays depict Mary riding into town on a donkey there is no Biblical evidence of this. There is no Biblical evidence she didn’t. All the Bible says is that she went with Joseph (Luke 2:5). Yet, this is a small example of how when we hear and see something long enough we begin to believe the Bible says it.
Did Mary give birth immediately upon entering Bethlehem?
Most depictions of Jesus birth seem to portray Mary and Joseph in a panic upon entering into town, and frantically searching for a place to have their baby. This is a false depiction. Luke 2:6 says And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth (ESV). The Scripture clearly imply that they were there for some time. Most agree, and you will too after some deeper study, they were likely there for weeks before Mary gave birth.
Did Mary and Joseph get turned away by inn keepers?
Absolutely not. First understand there were no Holiday Inns in the town of Bethlehem at this time. This was Josephs hometown, he had family here, which is likely where they stayed. The original Greek word here for inn is kataluma, which means a guest chamber in a private home. When you take all that into account what likely happened is there was no room in the main part of the house for Mary to deliver her baby. Further, the reason for their visit to Bethlehem is everyone was reporting to their hometowns for a census, this would explain why the house was so crowded.
Was Jesus born in a barn or stable type setting?
Yes, just not quite the way our nativities depict. It doesn’t appear Jesus was born in an outdoor setting. Because there was no room in the main part of the house its likely they stayed in an area under the house where the animals would have been kept in at night. He would have been laid in a manger which was a box type structure attached to the wall that animals would use as a feeding trough.
Did Jesus cry upon being born?
We hear songs like away in a manger that say Jesus did not cry when he was born. The Bible doesn’t say that or imply that Jesus did not cry upon being born. It is obviously not sinful to cry as Jesus cried multiple times in His ministry. He was as much human as he was God, so it seems likely He would have cried as that is how babies communicate with their caretakers.
Did 3 kings and 3 wise men visit Jesus when He was born?
Yes, no and sort of. We typically see 3 kings in the nativities, we have a Christmas song called we 3 kings; however, there is NO mention of kings visiting Jesus. The only king we read about is Herod who is trying to kill every new born baby in order to murder Jesus. The adding of 3 kings is a total fabrication.
The wise men are a different story. They did visit Jesus. However, there is no indication that it was 3. It just uses the plural form which means there were at least 2, and likely much more, probably 20-30. Additionally, they did not visit Him upon His birth. Matthew 2:9, where it says the wise men followed a star that guided them to Jesus, it stopped where the child was. The key word here is child. When Jesus is born the Bible uses the term baby, but when the wise men visit it uses child. This may seem arbitrary but it has significant meaning. The original words here mean something totally different. Baby refers to a newborn or infant, while child means a toddler. By the time the wise men made the journey to Jesus He was likely around 2 years old.
Was Jesus actually born on December 25?
Absolutely not, was He born in the winter, no way. There are so many things that give evidence to Jesus being born in April or May, and none that points to winter or December. From the shepherds being in the fields, to the census taking place the evidence all points to spring months. So why do we celebrate it in December, well that’s another blog post I suppose, but I can tell you the reason for celebrating Christmas in December has nothing to do with Jesus.
So maybe its appropriate Jesus fades into the background in December. Much of our traditions, songs and plays have nothing to do with Him. I would encourage you to take time to read the birth of Jesus in the Bible during April and May. Praise God for the wonderful gift He gave us in Jesus. By doing it during this time of year you have nothing to distract you; no trees, no lights, no gifts, no traditions, just Jesus! And isn’t He enough?