On the day after Christmas, it might be helpful to contemplate one of the great truths that comes out of the Christmas story. While our traditional understanding of the story is one of rejection and being alone, I would suggest a careful reading of the text, as well as an understanding of the Biblical world, actually leads to the opposite view.
As an archaeologist, every year I teach the Christmas story to the men in our program. As we read through the Christmas story in Luke 2, I point out where it contradicts our traditional nativity scenes and the children’s Christmas play we do every year in church. The text doesn’t mention a barn, a quote from the innkeeper or even a reference to an innkeeper!
To continue…baby Jesus was probably not born the night they arrived and the wise men did not make the manger scene at all. In fact, the manger was probably located on the ground floor of Joseph’s ancestral home in Bethlehem and the “inn” was the second floor guest room of the same house! Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus would have been surrounded by family that day. While my reconstruction of the story makes some people mad, I think it is the correct way to understand the Christmas story.
The overlooked messasge of the Christmas story is that it is not about rejection and being alone – just the opposite. It tell us that God the Father made sure His Son was born into this world surrounded by family. The Christmas story is about inclusion and a reminder that family is important to us and to God. He doesn’t want us to be alone or try to do our spiritual walk by ourselves. Family is critical and essential for our own wellbeing.
But some would say their biological families aren’t available or are not healthy to be around. Jesus added some important insights to this idea about family. When His own mother and brothers came to speak to Him one day, He pointed out to the crowd that His mother, brothers and sisters are those who do the will of His Father in heaven (Matthew 12:50). Beyond biological family, there is spiritual family – and everyone should be connected somewhere.
One of the great lessons from the first Christmas is the wonderful truth that God wants us all to have family and be connected. Especially during the holiday season, when many who have suffered loss do feel alone, the Christmas story reminds us how important family is – biological or spiritual – and we need to be connected and help make sure others are, as well!
So, let’s work on this concept for 2009 and get plugged in somewhere. I can assure you that it is God’s plan for your life.
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director
P.S. I just finished writing a short article on this subject that will be published next Christmas. If you would like a copy of my draft, I will be glad to pass it along. Just email me and I will send it to you.