Merry Christmas -- This coming Tuesday many millions of Christians around the globe will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. His life has impacted history more than any other human being who has ever lived and who will ever live.
We are all familiar with the story of the baby being born in the manger. The scene is ingrained into our brains and while we all smile at the romanticized version of the story of the birth, it did not happen that way.
My understanding of the culture of Jewish society is limited, but I do know that it is unimaginable that any male or female in that culture would have tossed out a pregnant woman into the city to spend the night. There being no room in the inn, the couple was sent to a manger, which is a side room in a house, during that time. The accommodations were not five-star to be sure but there was a roof over their heads.
The kings came, not the day of the birth but between the first and second birthday from what I understand. The three gifts were useful items for that time in history.
The facts are that Mary and Joseph were guided by God to carry out their responsibilities to bring the Son of God into this world.
Mary was chosen because of her goodness and her character. Her devotion to God was second to none so she was given the task and the gift of being the one to give birth to the Lord.
Joseph gets forgotten in much of the Christmas stories. He was a good husband and a trusting man. Mary was with child and he knew he hadn't been with Mary in "that way." She could have been the object of scorn and ridicule but Joseph, strong in his faith, stood by and allowed the events to occur as he stood, in a sense, on the sidelines.
Jesus is born in Bethlehem because of the need for the government to conduct a census and so Mary and Joseph had to return to the city of Joseph's birth. They traveled on a donkey.
Jesus lived a quiet life as a carpenter until he reached 30 years of age and he became active as, what we would call, an itinerant preacher. He performed miracles and caught the attention of many including the governmental leaders as well as the leaders of the local temples. He wasn't popular in those circles.
He was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death by crucifixion. His body was laid in a borrowed tomb which was guarded by a trusted Roman soldier. On the third day he rose from the dead and was seen by too many to not consider the sightings reliable. Thomas even touched his side. So we celebrate his birth because we celebrate his resurrection at Easter.
It doesn't matter that we don't know the exact date of his birth, which would have been in the spring if the shepherds were out with their flocks by night. It doesn't matter how long it took the wise men to follow the star to find the baby to deliver the gifts. It doesn't matter what the accommodations of the manger resembled.
What matters is that the stories of the Old Testament were proven to be accurate. What matters is that we celebrate the coming of the Lord. It matters that we take the time to celebrate that God sent his only begotten son for our benefit.
As we gather together with family and friends and we attend the church of our choice to celebrate this season we need to remember the messages of peace, love, and joy.
We need to remember the concept of "Goodwill toward Mankind." We need to remember to have a lot less Santa and a lot more Jesus in this holiday.
I hope that if you haven't been in a church for some time that you may use this season to connect or reconnect with a parish and rest assured you will be welcomed. Walk-ins are always welcome. There is a seat waiting for you.
May the peace and joy of this Christmas season be with you all.