This is also the time of year for many to be in a tizzy about “putting Christ back in Christmas” and ousting Mr. Claus. Many Christian congregations, homes and town squares are certain to pull out their nativity scenes to proclaim, “Jesus is the reason for the season!” Moms and dads will soon be dashing for the best seats to “aww” over their child’s special role in this year’s Christmas pageant.
Like many parents, I was very concerned about the disconcerting focus on Santa. I didn’t want to be deceptive or want Jake to conclude that celebrating Jesus’ birth is a time to get something based on his behavior! Consequently, I told him early on that Santa was not real and repeatedly exposed him to the “truth” about Christ’s birth. While I meant well, I unknowingly continued to deceive Jake by teaching him the traditional Christmas story as it is often told:
“About 2000 years ago Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem. With Mary riding a donkey, they frantically scoured the city for a place to deliver the baby who was making his way into the world! Because there were no vacancies at the hotels, baby Jesus was born in a stable on the evening of December 25th. Upon this joyous occasion, the angels sang to the shepherds and they all joined three kings in a barn to worship a newborn who doesn’t cry.”
Where do we get such a distorted picture of Christ’s birth
and why are we passing it on as truth?
A careful look at Scripture quickly exposes our traditional Christmas myths!
• Mary rode a donkey into Bethlehem having contractions. –.With other modes of transportation available, picturing her on a donkey is only an assumption since Scripture does not say. “While they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for the baby to be born” (Luke 2:6). We don’t know how long Mary was in Bethlehem before she went into labor.
• Having no vacancies, Innkeepers turned Mary away – In this account the word kataluma is unfortunately translated as “inn.” Luke offers a more accurate picture in his description of the kataluma where Jesus and His disciples shared the Passover meal before His death. This “upper room” was a large furnished “guest room” commonly found in a private Jewish home. Jewish tradition would have it that Joseph and Mary went to his ancestral home rather than a pandocheion (inn) [Luke 10:34]. However, the family’s kataluma was already full.
• Jesus was born in a stable in December. – We assume that placing Jesus in a feeding trough means that He was born in a barn; however animals were kept in the lower level of the Jewish home at night for protection. This main part of the house is where baby Jesus came into the world most likely in the month of September.
• Having no clothes for poor Baby Jesus, He was wrapped in ripped-up cloths. – “Swaddling clothes” were the standard baby garments of the culture.
• Angels were singing in the fields and were present at the birth of the Christ Child – We are told that angels praised God after announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, however there is no indication that they sang. There is also no record of angels being present at the birth of Jesus. In fact, Luke 2:15 says that they returned to heaven after appearing to the shepherds.
• Three kings from the orient came to visit baby Jesus on camels. – Although they were not kings, star-gazing priests from the East came to see Jesus. While these men typically traveled in large groups rather than threesomes, there is no indication of how they arrived. If we want to assume the regal mode, it was horses and chariots, not camels! Regardless, it is clear that these visitors didn’t come until after Jesus was a paidion (toddler) and no longer a brephos (infant) (Matthew 2: 11).
I could go on and on with examples of common misrepresentation of this glorious event.
Some may feel that all the details aren’t that important.
Unfortunately, however, many are revolted by those who proclaim to know Christ,
yet who fail to know the facts about what they so adamantly profess to believe!
Multitudes of teens become disillusioned with the faith of their parents while many new and life-long believers also become disheartened. In seeking truth for themselves, they come to realize that those whom they trusted and those who claim to have a hold on “truth” are scripturally illiterate! Sadly, they recognize that, smirking in the shadows, people of various beliefs, including many atheists, know Scripture better than most who assert their Christianity!
Before we can rightly profess truth… we need to know what truth is! Before mocking those of various beliefs and criticizing the disenchanted ones who turn away, we need to make sure that what we believe is truly based on Scripture!
We should make a point of keeping the Christ child at the center of celebrating His birth. However, if Jesus is truly the reason for our celebration, then let’s honor Him by telling the story according to His Word rather than the deception of tradition!