I wonder what the Christmas Story would look like if you or I were writing it today? I think that the first thing that I would do is change the cast of characters. What a screwed up group of people!
1. A pregnant, unmarried, teenage girl. While this is fairly common today, there is still a certain stigma attached to it. We can’t even begin to imagine how embarrassing and shameful this would have been in the First Century. Not only was it embarrassing to the young woman, but her family would have felt acute shame as well. Is this really the way for the God to enter the human race? And that story Mary told her parents: “Well, mom and dad, there was this angel, you see, and he told me this was going to be God’s baby.” Right!
2. A kind and understanding fiance, but not the Baby’s daddy. “What is the matter with Joseph?” his family would have asked. “Why is he staying with this girl? She obviously was not faithful to him. He should dump her and find someone else. Surely, he can do better than her.” And even Joseph himself started talking crazy about having angels speaking to him in a dream about God’s plan…
3. An innkeeper who could not find room for this unmarried couple. We don’t really know anything about the innkeeper. Maybe he was influenced by the fact that Mary was pregnant but not married yet. Maybe the couple didn’t have enough money to rent a room. Maybe all the rooms were filled. I am still stunned by the fact, though, that the innkeeper was able to turn this needy couple away. She was about to have a baby! Why didn’t he bring them into his own home? Imagine how the innkeeper’s life might have been different if he had allowed the baby to born in his house.
4. Some rough-looking shepherds. Our modern idea of shepherds is of little Johnny in the Christmas play wearing his bath robe, holding a broomstick and wearing a towel on his head. Shepherds were a tough lot. They were a group of violent men used to living outdoors. They were paid to guard their flocks from predators, the four-legged as well as the two-legged type. Think of the cowboys from the Wild West. These guys were a hard living group. They were not the type of men that you expected to show up looking for a baby. They probably smelled and used bad words. Yet, they turned up at the stable to gawk at this baby, and had a crazy story about angels and bright lights.
5. Adoring friends and family? Actually, Mary had the Baby in a barn. Tradition says that it was really a small cave that was used as a place to keep the animals. The child’s first bed was a stone feeding trough. The only witnesses were probably her fiance, some sheep, goats, and a donkey or two. How lonely and scared Mary must have been! If this was ever the time that a young girl needed her mother, this was it.
6. The Magi? These were pagan magicians. They were astrologers. Didn’t the Old Testament forbid all that stuff? Are these the guys that we want welcoming Jesus into the world? Where were the Jewish religious leaders? Shouldn’t they have been the ones to greet the newborn King? Instead, these non-Jewish magicians were the ones who dropped to their knees and worshipped Jesus.
Yep, if I was writing the Christmas Story, I’d come up with a cleaner, neater story. I guess that’s why God didn’t ask for my help. Life is not clean and neat. Life is messy, gritty, and dirty. God stepped into history to deal with real people and their messy, drama filled existence. Thankfully, God is not afraid to get His hands dirty in the dirt of our lives.
Maybe there are parts of your life that you wish you could rewrite. If you could just delete that one night, that one weekend, that relationship, your life would be so much better. Jesus came to earth as the Personification of God’s grace. That grace is extended to us in Jesus so that our past can be healed. His grace also gives us the courage to live in the present and the hope to face the future.
Are there parts of your life that you wish you could delete and rewrite? How can the Christmas Story help you see those areas in a new light?
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