Summary: Exposing the myths of Christmas in a lighthearted way
As you can see from the title of the sermon this morning, I’m going to attempt to overturn much of what you believed to be true about Christmas. Over the last several years I’ve become convinced that God created me to combat conventional wisdom. Why? Most of the time conventional wisdom is just plain wrong, even though it’s widely accepted. The authors of the book Freakonomics tell the reason this is so:
“Conventional wisdom … must be simple, convenient, comfortable, and comforting – though not necessarily true.”
Therefore it is with great delight that I confront and afflict you with this Christmas message. But please, as I shatter your illusions, remember that it’s because I love you.
The first truth I want to foist upon you was hinted at in last week’s message:
Hallmark misses the mark
No disrespect is intended to the card company. Hallmark represents the romantic way that we’ve begun to view Christmas. That is to say, greeting card companies like Hallmark pretty-up the picture. They simplify, sanitize, and symbolize the season to create warm feelings inside card buyers. To demonstrate how Hallmark misses the mark, I’m going to present my own top 10 list.
Top 10 Christmas Fallacies
10. Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem
Where does the Bible tell us this? No where as far as I can find. Don’t feel too bad if you’ve always assumed this. I’d been a pastor for nearly a decade when some silly girl gave me a Bible quiz with this question: What did Mary ride into Bethlehem? I said donkey too. You’d think that in the thousands of dollars I spent in seminary someone would have pointed that one out.
9. Jesus was born in 1 AD
In fact, Jesus was born sometime before 4 BC. How do we know this? We have historical records of when King Herod the Great died. It was 4 BC. We also know that Jesus was born during the time of Caesar Augustus who began his reign in Rome in 14 BC. The fact that Jesus was born during a Roman census narrows it down even further. Quirinius was governor of Syria in 6 AD when there was a census, but that’s too late for Jesus’ birth because Herod was already dead. Following the 14 year pattern, Jesus was likely born in 8 BC.
8. A mean innkeeper turned Joseph and Mary away
I always thought this one to be true because I played the part of the surly innkeeper at church as a kid. With a bathrobe for outerwear and towel on my head, I believe my line, spoken to kids playing Joseph and Mary, went something like this: “We have no room today.”
The reason this may not be accurate is that the word we translate as “inn” actually means “guest room.” We have the image in our minds that Mary arrived in Bethlehem the night when Jesus was born, but the Bible doesn’t say that. They could have been there several weeks or months staying with relatives, which was the proper protocol. It’s more likely that they moved out of a crowded house to have more privacy and more room in a stable. We find that quite appalling, but you have to remember that rooms at ancient lodges were usually little more than a stall with a roof over it. A stable would have been a suitable birthplace.