How well do you know the Christmas story from the Bible? Here’s a quick Christmas Quiz for you: What did the inn-keeper say to Mary and Joseph that night? Answer – well, nothing. There’s no inn-keeper in the Bible story. OK, another question: How many wise men came to visit? Answer – we don’t know, the Bible doesn’t say. We know however many there were they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But there’s no reason to assume that meant there were three of them, with a gift each.
We get our images of the Christmas story from many sources, Christmas cards, carols, even nativity sets. Most western imaginations view the story as Mary and Joseph being in an awful rush that night, ill-prepared with nowhere for Jesus’ birth, as if the local Bethlehem ”Holiday Inn” chain was fully booked. In fact, Luke’s Gospel records that “While they were in Bethlehem the days were fulfilled for Mary to deliver her child”. They had been there for some weeks. No panic.
In the Bible we have only two accounts of Jesus’ nativity; The Gospel of Matthew which has wise men [star-gazers] but no shepherds. And Luke which has shepherds but no wise men. Mark and John don’t even tell the story.
Which is all fine, because it is a story, like all stories, told for the meanings it conveys. The details don’t matter, it's what it engenders in us. That’s where truth is. The story itself bears the hopes of peace and goodwill to humanity. In an act of wondrous solidarity, God seeks human experience.
An invitation - If you would like the opportunity during the busy tiredness of the season to stop awhile and reflect, it will be offered right here as part of our School community activities. A Christmas service will be held in the Chapel, on the evening of Sunday 23 December at 7.00 pm. Come and enter those same meanings.
Rev Phil Hoffmann