Christmas is a lovely holiday but the image we have of Jesus’ birth is somewhat different from the biblical accounts.
There’s no innkeeper—I think we invented him so we could have one more part for a kid to play in the pageant. And believe it or not, there was no stable with cute animals and sweet smelling hay. We say the child was wrapped in “swaddling clothes” which sounds beautiful but they were really just rags. “Manger” is also a pleasant word but it was just a dirty feedbox kept outside for the livestock.
So here’s the real picture: a child was born outside in the dirt at night. His parents were far from home away from any family support. Add to that the element of scandal where the kid’s identity was questioned–(Who was his daddy?)
So far, this is not a unique story. Even today, children are born in these conditions and many of them, as well as their mothers, die anonymously in poverty.
But this story takes a different turn. Angels appeared in the sky and sang of his arrival to shepherds, who in turn went to the child and bowed to him in worship. Astrologers from another land searched the skies and used a star to guide them on a two year journey to find this child and give him lavish gifts.
The boy grew up to be a teacher, a healer, and a leader. When his enemies killed him, it is said he didn’t stay dead. Today, people claim that he is the redeemer of humanity.
It may only be a story but it can’t be ignored because it has a message of powerful hope. When all the various forms of Christianity are combined, they make up the world’s biggest religion.
For several years I held onto the image of God as a baby when nothing else made any sense to me. Now I’ve come to believe that there is something special, maybe even sacred, in all children. They bring out our our noblest ambitions and our best efforts. I think the children of the world constantly redeem humanity (Let’s face it, the world needs constant redeeming.) It makes sense to me that we would tell each other a story about a child who grew up to save the world.
Anyway, whether or not we believe it… Merry Christmas.