Doing Christmas Right

The snow is coming down outside my window as I write. It’s the first snow of any consequence this year and more is coming later this week – according to the weather people, much more.

For those of you who live in more temperate climates, those of us in the north have a strong association of Christmas with snow. We haven’t really had Christmas until we’ve had snow! We’ll see how that works out this year.

It is interesting what goes into Christmas for most people that make it Christmas. People associate it with many things that don’t have anything to do with what Christmas is all about. Even religious people who claim to know the real meaning of Christmas identify it with a long list of things that you’d have a hard time finding in the original story.

The song It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas summarizes where most people are on this issue – it’s about candy canes in the five and ten, toys in every store, holly on the front door, and a tree in the Grand Hotel and a carol that you sing.

Add to that snow, lights, shopping, Santa, Hallmark movies, family dinners, and opening presents on Christmas morning (or Christmas Eve for you non traditionalists) and you have a typical American Christmas.

There’s nothing essentially wrong with any of those things, it’s just that they aren’t Christmas. In fact you could make the argument that they are the clutter that keep us from seeing the real Christmas.

Strip all of the peripherals away and the question becomes: Do you still have Christmas? Even without snow?!

We all know the answer: Yes, you’ll still have Christmas! But most of us will probably celebrate it with a little less enthusiasm. For some reason we think we need the snow! (and all of the other things).

This year is starting out to be different. Due to circumstances unthought of a year ago, Christmas will probably look a lot different this year. Not so many large family dinners. Not so many people around the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Not so many carolers. Not so many shoppers (debatable).

But there’s an upside to all of this. Without quite as many distractions this Christmas we might even have a little extra time – time to reflect on Christmas – without the peripherals.

That will be something different. Time to think about what it means that God became man. Time to contemplate the love that God showed in the incarnation. Time for reflection, meditation, worship.

Time to do Christmas right.

Stay in the Word,

Pastor Steve 

Where Was Jesus Born?

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and lad Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).

FINALLY the Advent season is here! What a glorious time of the year as we celebrate the birth of Christ.

The study of His birth is actually an interesting one. There is no question among evangelical theologians that Jesus was born in Bethlehem as the prophet Micah had foretold (Micah 5:2). In fact the Old Testament prophet was specific in his identification of the village as Bethlehem Ephrathah so as not to cause confusion with another Bethlehem – Bethlehem of the Galilee near the village of Nazareth. There have been a few scholars who have argued for this location as the birthplace of Jesus, but not many and they aren’t taken seriously.

The question is not: Which Bethlehem? The question is: Where in Bethlehem was Jesus born?

As children many of us were told that Jesus was born in a stable surrounded by farm animals, and the pictures we saw were of a small, wooden structure somewhat like those on a small farm pre WW I. Many nativity scenes in homes today include a wooden structure as the backdrop for the nativity characters.

Then we were told that it was a stable, but probably a small cave in the side of a hill. This tradition does have some ancient roots. I stood in a cave under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built in the early 300s A.D. which is widely thought to be His birthplace.

Both of these options run into problems when you look at the language, the culture, and the design of homes in that day.

So, if not in a wooden stable or a cave, what’s left?

There are some scholars who have suggested that Jesus was actually born in – wait for it – an inn!

What! There was no room for them in the inn. Isn’t that what the Bible says?

Well yes, and no. Our English Bibles say there was no room for them in the inn, but that may not be what the original language was trying to communicate. The same word is used of the upper room where Jesus and the disciples took the last supper. It refers to a room that was used for guest who visited your home.

Interestingly in Jewish homes, the animals were often brought indoors at night and stayed in the same area where the family lived. The guests stayed in the “inn” or a separate room. In the part of the house where the family slept with their animals, there were “mangers”, often a shallow depression in the floor where hay was put for the animals to eat.

Joseph and Mary may have stayed with the family (probably a relative) in their quarters because the “inn” or guest room was already filled with other people or relatives. This isn’t a new idea. It’s been around since at least the late 1800s

Interesting isn’t it!?

Some theologians have made an issue of this and it is good to be accurate with the Word of God – as long as the discussion doesn’t overshadow the primary point, that HE CAME.

The most important question is not Where, but Why!

Whether Jesus was born in a wooden stable, a cave or a home of a relative, the main point is that He came for us. He came to give us life (Mark 10:45).

He has come for us
This Jesus
He’s the hope for all
Mankind
He has come for us
The Messiah
Born to give us life

Meredith Andrews, He Has Come For Us

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve