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So… what really happened at Christmas?

December 15, 2008

Tom in the Box is reporting about a nativity scene in the US that has been judged to be non-Christian and therefore suitable for use on state property.

In a written statement, Reasoning explained, “Most scenes have no Biblical support, including (1) Mary’s riding on a donkey, (2) the appearance of an innkeeper, (3) the use of a small feeding trough that is just the right size to hold a baby, (4) the idea that shepherds brought sheep out of the fields to see the baby, (5) the notion that there were only 3 men from the east, (6) the thought that the men from the east were kings wearing crowns, (7) the conclusion that the men from the east saw a baby in a manger, and (8) the speculation that Shrek was one of the wise men. Therefore, given that the scene is largely non-Biblical or religious in nature, we are dropping the lawsuit.”

Yes, the site is a parody, but the sentiment is bang on. There is a lot of stuff in the popular telling of the story that simply doesn’t match what’s in the Bible.

So what does the Bible actually say happened at Christmas? Well, that’s complicated. The story is found in the first two chapters of Luke and the first two chapters of Matthew. I’d suggest you sit down with them separately and jot down a point by point summary of what happens in each. No cheating—just write down what the text actually says. Be careful of what you think you know.

Now, answer the following questions:

  1. What town did Mary and Joseph live in before Jesus was born?
  2. Did Mary and Joseph marry before Jesus was born?
  3. Where did Mary, Joseph and Jesus go in the weeks after the birth of Jesus?
  4. When did the family finally settle in Nazareth?

Now it’s quite possible to come up with a story that makes these stories fit together. To do so, though, would be to make a mockery of the stories as they currently stand. It seems to be much more satisfying to let them disagree. And let’s face it—if we can’t even tell if Shrek was one of the wise men or not, we’ve got bigger problems.

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