Dr. Bill Atwood

Not about Santa

She had some explaining to do. It had to be tough on the young lady. People would be talking. She was probably only 14 years of age, unmarried and pregnant. This fine Jewish girl would be the subject of ridicule for violating the social values of her community and certainly the values of her faith.

Joseph had some serious issues to face. Certainly the community would wonder about his role in the whole affair. He accepted her story that an angel came and told her she would bear a child and that the child would be the Son of God.

Mary assured Joseph that she had not been with a man and yet she would serve as the mother to the newborn. You can be sure that those two young people faced comments, scorn, stares and glares and yet, they trusted in God and in their hearts that what they had heard from the angels and archangels was factual and real.

The government had decreed that for the purposes of a census that people would need to return to the city of their birth and so Joseph took pregnant Mary to Bethlehem to be included in the count. The cities were full because people were returning to the sites of their births and the lodging was now unavailable to this young couple.

Our culture has accepted the story and the image of Mary and Joseph being told that there was no room at the inn; and we have all grown up with the image of the Baby Jesus being born in a manger that resembles a stable. A manger was not a farm stable as we envision it. A manger was a room in a home in the manner of a guest accommodation.

If you have had any contact with people of the Jewish faith and culture, you know for certain that no pregnant woman about to give birth was going to be turned away and forced to sleep in a stable with a cow, sheep, and goats. Not in a million years.

So in the manger the baby is born, as was foretold in scripture and the whole of human history was changed with that single solitary birth. Mary accepted the role of being the mother to Jesus and would not only raise him, but would also have to watch 33 years later as her precious child was nailed to the cross and crucified.

Joseph would live with the gossip and the looks as the man who took in “that girl” and probably heard comments questioning his role in the fathering of the baby. We hear little about Joseph, but he certainly fulfilled his earthly role for God.

Eventually the Magi arrived and presented the family with the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, along with words of praise for the baby. Jesus would grow up learning the trade of carpentry alongside Joseph and only in the last years of his life did Jesus take on the role of itinerant preacher. In the last three years of his life, this young man caught the attention of the local government but his actions and words also were known to the government in Rome. Rome did not like what they were hearing.

Long story short - Jesus was betrayed by Judas, tried and convicted in the sham of a trial and sentenced to death all in one night. On the next day, Friday, he was beaten and crucified and was buried in a borrowed tomb, sealed with a boulder that was guarded by a trusted sentry assigned to ensure that nobody would steal the body because the scripture had foretold that Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day. The Tomb was empty.

That is why we celebrate Easter. That is why we celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus. Tomorrow around the world billions of Christians will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It isn’t about Santa Claus and has nothing to do with reindeer. It has to do with the birth of Christ.

As we gather in our churches throughout this area and across the nation and around the globe, we will be united as one body, one church, one faith-Christianity. There are many denominations, but only one church.

If you haven’t been to church in awhile and want to join in on the celebration of the birth of Christ, I can assure you that you are welcome. No reservations required, just show up.

At sundown on Dec. 24, Advent will end and the 12 days of the Christmas season will begin, so until Jan. 6, I wish each of you and your families a Merry Christmas.