Summary: The real story of Christmas includes CPR.
The Whole Surprising Story of Christmas.
How well do we really know the whole story of Christmas? Let’s start with this quiz… answer t or f.
1. There are no records of Joseph speaking in the Gospels. T.
2. Mary rode a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. F. It very likely she walked, no mention of donkey.
3. Jesus’ ancestors included a prostitute, unfaithful husband, and an incestuous relationship. T Rahab was a prostitute, David was an adulterer and Tamar & Judah committed incest.
4. The star did not appear above the manger. T
It appeared above the house where Joseph’s family was living (Matthew 2:9-11).
5. The wise men followed the star as it moved from their eastern land to Israel. F.
Apparently not. The wise men saw the star in the east (Matthew 2:2). But it did not take them to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem they asked for directions. Once leaving Jerusalem the star appeared again and led them to the house in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:9).
6. The wise men found Jesus lying in a manger in the town of Bethlehem. F
Jesus was in a house by this time (Matthew 2:11).
7. Joseph married Mary immediately after the angel appeared to him. T
Yes. His obedience was quick, cheerful and complete. Matthew 1:24.
8. When Herod heard about Jesus he was the only one concerned about this new king. F
All Jerusalem was disturbed by this news of a new king (Matthew 2:3).
9. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary first and later to Joseph. F we don’t know the name of the angel who appeared to Joe.
10. God sent a choir of chubby angels to announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. F
Actually God sent an army of warrior angels. See Luke 2:13. "Company" and "host" are military terms.
How did you do? 10 out of ten? How many of you got 9, 8??
Actually, did you know that there was no interest in the early Christian church regarding Christmas day celebrations? It was not until the time of Hippolytus, the Bishop of Rome, circa first half of the 3rd century that someone thought of celebrating Christmas. Wikipedia.org article on Christmas says this “In 245, the theologian Origen denounced the idea of celebrating Jesus’ birthday "as if he were a king pharaoh." He contended that only sinners, not saints, celebrated their birthdays.”
There is quite a bit of uncertainty why Dec. 25th was chosen. But it seems that the consensus view is the date was chosen to replace the pagan festivals Saturnalia (dec.17-24) and Brumalia (dec.25). According to the Encyclopedia of Religion (1964,p.165) the historical record shows church festivals began around the first half of the 4th century. That is quite late in church history. In fact this same source stated that the church did not impose that date to be the date for Christmas, rather it was born out of “elemental human qualities.” That is, this was a reaction of humans to the changing of the seasons, to celebrate the shortest day of the year, and it was continued by Christians with a new significance attached. It was done to Christianized pagan attitudes to reach an audience that was primed for something to celebrate in the shortest day of the year.
Do you get the sense that it was pretty much a tradition in the early church to NOT celebrate Christmas? The Bible gives a clue as to why. Isn’t it interesting that the Gospel of Mark which is the earliest Gospel did not start with the birth story of the Christ? Mark 1:1 begins with this “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” but then it goes and tells the story of the ministry of John the Baptist who prepares the way of the Lord, the forerunner of Jesus. V.4 tells of the content of the message of John “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John’s message reflects God’s heart – God always is open to people who’d repent and God accepts that and will forgive all sin! What a God! Is this is the not REAL story behind Christmas? The story of forgiveness, a story that demonstrates the most improbable incredible unbelievable thing that God will not throw us away like yesterday’s used paper plate. He is way more interested in rescuing His fallen creature whom He, for some crazy reason, enjoys and loves. This is the Good News, the Gospel, God’s not ready to simply give up on us.
It wasn’t until v.9 that we hear about the Jesus coming from Nazareth and it was about His baptism as an adult by John and not about His birth. Mark was clearly more interested in telling the story of Jesus as an adult which culminated in the Passion and the resurrection story of the Christ. Even the Gospel of John did the same thing with hardly a mention of birth story… except for the reference that John 1:14 “The Word became flesh…” He too was interested in the story of Jesus as an adult rather than a babe in the manger.