Things aren’t always as they seem

Things aren’t always as they seem

Friday, 13 December 2013  | Gerry - Administration Manager
It’s that wonderful time of year again in which we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I’m a bit hesitant to share the following reflection about Christmas (from Luke 2:1-7) because it may make you uncomfortable, however it illustrates that so much of our understanding of the world and our faith is shaped by our culture. It shows us that things aren’t always as they seem to us.

Our traditional view of the Christmas story has Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph taking his wife to the village inn only to hear there is no room - except for a stable. We’ve become quite familiar with this scene, but it probably isn’t accurate. By reading the biblical text with some cultural and archaeological evidence we discover that adjustments are needed in our thinking.

In the first place it is unthinkable that an ancient Near East peasant culture would have failed to help a relative due to give birth. Second, we have leapt to the conclusion that Jesus was born in a stable only because of the mention of a manger – a feed box; yet for thousands of years and even in many places in the world today, mangers and the animals that use them are found within houses. Third, the Greek word (kataluma) translated as “inn” is not an inn at all, it is an upstairs guest room (the biblical scholar Kenneth Bailey has demonstrated this – you can google it if you like). So in Luke’s story, when he says that there was no room ‘in the inn’ (Luke 2:7) his point is that in the particular house that Joseph and Mary approached, the guest room was already occupied. This meant that Mary had to stay in the main part of the house and give birth in the room that had both the family and the animals on the ground floor.

While this reconstruction of the facts may change how we view the Christmas events, to me the great thing is that it reminds us that Father God ensured that his son was born into the world surrounded by family. Jesus is right there in the middle of an ordinary humble extended family right from the word go. And just as Jesus was there, we know that through His Spirit he is right here in the middle of the MECS family, in the middle of your family no matter how humble the circumstances.
May you enjoy celebrating Jesus’ birthday with new eyes this year.

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