Summary: We are to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, but sometimes they seem so trivial we tend to ignore them. Christmas trivia is a good example. Dr. Luke was a man of detail, and he records for us a number of things that can be called Christmas trivia.
One of the great paradoxes of Christmas is that almost everything the Bible tells us about
this most sacred event, is secular in nature. It is filled with what is temporal rather than
eternal; physical rather than spiritual; and world oriented rather than heaven oriented.
Christmas is really a very earthly event. This was by design, of course, for it marks the
beginning of God's personal involvement, in the flesh, on this earthly level of reality. When
God became man he went all the way, and participated fully in the secular realm common to
Just being born of a woman was as commonplace as it gets, for this is the universal
experience of all men. The Buddhist, the atheist, the cultist, and every other type of person,
comes into this world by the same method Jesus came. Birth does not take place in a sacred
setting, but in a secular setting, such as a hospital or the home. In the case of Jesus, the
setting was even more secular than usual, for he was born in a stable. It is also a very secular
job to be running an inn, and keeping up a stable, and shepherding sheep. Taking the census
was also very secular, along with paying taxes. The point is the whole setting of the first
Christmas is a secular setting. There is not a priest, rabbi, prophet, or preacher anywhere on
the scene. The angels do appear to the shepherds in the field and add the heavenly
involvement to the story, and the star is seen by the wise men afar, but the fact is, most of
what we see is simply secular.
Some of the secular props on the stage of history during this greatest of dramas have
played a important role. The church fathers considered the wise men to have been Persians.
In 614 A.D. when the Persians invaded and conquered the Holy Land, they did not destroy
the oldest church in the world-the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The reason was
because they saw on the golden mosaic over the doorway the wise men depicted as Persians
with their native headdress. This was the only holy site they did not attack. This trivial
secular detail changed the course of history, as far as this site of the birth of Jesus goes.
Without it, the church could have been destroyed. The trivial can play a tremendous role in
history. Never underestimate the impact of the seemingly insignificant.
The book, The Ugly American, is about an ugly-faced American engineer, Homer Atkins.
He was brought to Vietnam to build dams and roads. While he was there he solved a century
old problem by designing a bicycle treadmill pump. No longer did the women have to carry
water in pails up the hillside to water the paddies. His wife Emma made this suggestion, for
she was concerned about the fact that every woman over 60 had a bent back. The broom
the women used had such a short handle, because wood was expensive and in short supply.
Emma discovered a long stock reed and planted some near her door. Then she bound
coconut fronds to one of the long reeds she cut. She invited women to her house to see her
sweep with a long handled broom. It caught on, and years later when Homer and Emma
were living back in Pittsburgh, they received a letter from the villagers, part of which went
"In the village of Chang 'Dong today, the backs of
our people are straight and firm. No longer
are their bodies painful and bent. You will be
pleased to know that on the outskirts of the
village we have constructed a small shrine in
your memory... At the foot are these words:
'In memory of the woman who unbent the backs
of our people.' "
Her concern about such a trivial thing as the length of broom handles had a significant
impact on the life of a whole people. As we approach another Christmas it is of interest to
focus on some of the trivial secular details the Bible records about this event. We will see that
trivia could be called significa.
Significa are the small and minor matters which, nevertheless, have great impact and
influence. Every trivial thing that Jesus touched He transformed into significa.
A cradle was a lowly thing
And held of little worth
Till Jesus in a cradle slept
When first he came to earth.
A woman was a chattel owned
To pamper, scorn, or sell
Till Jesus proffered Living Truth
To one at Jacob's well.
A child? Just one more mouth to feed!
Not held in high esteem
Till Jesus made a little lad
The center of his Theme.
The lowliest death there was to die