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.
7. The wise men saw Jesus in the manger
I always tell people that if they have a manger scene with wise men, if they want to be accurate, they need to put the wise men away for three months to 2 years and then bring them out. But that doesn’t work either because Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus, Joseph, and Mary were living in a house by the time they showed up with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh (2:11).
6. A little drummer boy played “pa rum pum pum pum” for baby Jesus
It’s a sweet story, but it’s fiction. The song was written in the 1950s and the animated movie was created in 1968. I’m sorry if that bursts your bubble. This may help … That Rudolph story is absolutely true.
5. Mary and Joseph had a silent night
“The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes”? Give me a break. Yes, He was God in the flesh, but baby Jesus had needs just like every other child. He cried, He spit up, He soiled His diaper just like every other infant.
Luke even goes to pains to show us this. Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes just like every other child. Swaddling involved wrapping a long strip of cloth snuggly around a child. It kept them warm, protected their limbs from injury, and gave them a sense of security after making the transition from close quarters in the womb to a wide-open world. The swaddling wasn’t a sign to the shepherds. It was a combination of newborn swaddled baby lying in feeding trough for a cradle.