What’s Your Take On The Christmas Story?
As I write this it is the day before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. No wait. That’s another story!
Some perspectives on the traditional Christmas story of Jesus’ birth as we have known it:
1. It’s highly unlikely that Jesus was actually born in late December. For various reasons most scholars settle around a date in the Spring (April) as the more likely time of his birth. His birth got associated with December 25 because it is close to the winter solstice. More light coming into the world and all of that. It is a beautiful association!
2. The traditional Christmas story as we know it comes from a blending of the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke. Mark and John do not mention it at all.
3. Virgin birth? If you’ve been around the church at all, you’ve heard that Jesus was born of a virgin. You also probably got the impression that such a claim was unique to Jesus. It is not. Claims of virgin births are found in other religions and cultures. In fact Caesar Augustus, also known as Octavian (who was the Roman Emperor at the time of Jesus’ birth) was said to have been born of a virgin. For the record, I don’t believe Jesus (or anyone else) was born of a virgin.
4. Jesus was also called the “Prince of Peace”, a title attributed to Jesus which is a quote from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament. The title of Prince of Peace was first given to Caesar. Many scholars and theologians see this reference to Jesus as the Prince of Peace as a subversive political statement as much as a spiritual one. Scholars say it is a statement that Jesus is the true Prince of Peace, and not Caesar.
5. The big message of the traditional Christmas story as told by the Christian church is that God came down from heaven and became a human being. The angel says in Matthew 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God is with us). It is called the incarnation.
So beautiful and intimate. God is drawing close to humanity in the form of a tiny baby! But here is the thing:
God has become a human being in absolutely everyone and has incarnated in every flower, tree, and bird! Every baby that has been born in the course of human history is an incarnation! You get the strong message from the Church that this is the first time! The message of Christianity is that God became a human being in THE Son of God, when the more miraculous and beautiful truth is this: Everyone is a son or daughter of God! You and I are creative incarnations of the Divine One! That is why we crave community and it feels so good. We are coming home to Source in each other’s company.
But is there anything special or different with Jesus’ birth? Most certainly! Jesus incarnated as a highly evolved soul who knew of his Oneness with the One, beyond the normal consciousness of humanity. He did grow into more and more of an understanding of his Oneness during his human experience, but it came along with him into this world.
He came to be a teacher and a shower of the way for us. To remind us who and what we already are. Hence the title of these articles I’m sending your way, “I Remember Now.” He came to say, “you too are Immanuel. God is with us in everyone and everything! There is a knowing already within you of the truth. Wake up and remember!
He came to teach us how to live as both human and divine. He came to live as One, and teach us and show us how to live as One.
Now isn’t that an even more profound and life changing truth? It is a message that can bring greater and more real transformation to us. To believe that someone else was God’s Son (God incarnate) is limited in the effect it can have on us. It can warm the heart from time to time, but it cannot set fire to the spark that is already within us all.
Behold, Mary, Joe, Bob, Jennifer……._______, I bring you good news! God has become a human being, and that human being is YOU! Oh how this world needs your light and love! Thank God YOU are with us!
Pastor Tim Tengblad