The Christmas story is real and it is true. We all have our memories of Christmas plays, songs, and programs. Because of those memories, those songs, or those plays, we often think some things are facts about the Christmas story when they really aren’t.
How many of these do you think are true?
- Mary and Joseph traveled by donkey to Bethlehem, and the wise men traveled by camel. Is this true? Maybe they did, but we don’t know. There is no mention of animals in travel in this Christmas story, even when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt during the night. During this era, camels were a common mode of travel, yet there is no mention of a camel train with the journey of the wise men.
- Jesus was born the night Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem – and she was in labor when they got to the Inn. Is that true? Scripture indicates that they possibly arrived in Bethlehem at least two days earlier. This is what the story says: “While they were there the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.”
- Jesus was born on December 25. We know this isn’t true. According to geographics, it is more likely that Jesus was born during spring months because the shepherds were out at night watching their flocks. Had it been winter, the flocks would have been inside.
- The Innkeeper was uncaring and heartless because he would not allow Mary and Joseph to stay in his Inn, even though she was very pregnant. Really? If you had been an Innkeeper and your rooms were filled, who would you have kicked out to make room for a pregnant woman? How many other pregnant women got there before Mary did and had a room? There is no mention of Joseph pleading for a place for his pregnant bride. It’s true that there was no room in the Inn, but there is no reason to believe that this Innkeeper was heartless. Just because he was an Innkeeper, it doesn’t mean it was his responsibility to host everyone who came for the census.
- Mary put Jesus into a manger that was filled with hay. Can we prove this to be true? We don’t know that there was hay in that manger. There might have been, but we really don’t know. Did Mary need hay? She had come prepared – that we know because she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes.
- There were cattle in the stable/cave. Really? Scripture doesn’t mention animals being there. There might have been.We know there was a manger, but we don’t know that this stable was being used for animals.
- The angels sang in the sky. Did they sing, or did they talk? Maybe they sang. But we can’t prove it. We do know that scripture says the angel was joined by a multitude praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest . . . . . . “
- There were 3 wise men. We don’t know that for sure. We know that three different gifts were brought and presented to the Christ child: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Nowhere does scripture tell us that there were only three wise men who traveled from the East.
- The wise men visited the baby in the stable. (The same place where the shepherds visited and worshiped.) Not true at all. The wise men spent months traveling to find this Child. Mary birthed her Baby in the stable because there wasn’t room for them in the Inn. They didn’t stay there long, of that we are certain because they settled into Bethlehem and lived there. When the wise men came, Jesus was a young child.
- Jesus was an infant when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem. Nope, He could not have been. By the time the men from the East found the child, He was much older. These men followed the star to the house where the young child and His mother were. I think Jesus was nearer the age of two years than two months. Why else did Herod have all the babies two years old and younger killed?
While some of these non-verified things could possibly be true, we can’t know for certain. We can suppose that since there was a manger in a stable, hay could have been there. We can suppose that the stable was a home for animals even though we don’t know for certain. Even so, this Christmas I’ll still be singing about “the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay”. I’ll be singing about that beautiful star of Bethlehem. I’ll be singing about the shepherds on a cold, wintry night.
Most importantly, I’ll be singing about the Baby who came for a reason – to be our Savior.
The One Thing That is True
I’ll be remembering that, even though some of our assumed understandings of the Christmas story are inaccurate, what matters most is what Christmas is about. A birth of a Baby, who grew into a Child and then became a Man.
This Holy Child came to die, so we can live. Now that we know for certain.