Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Birth - With Interpretive Commentary

From Luke, Chapter 2:

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Now, a more interpretive version:

Way back in the early days the Emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus, became so full of himself that he thought it would be interesting to see how many people were subject to him so he decided to count them. He sent out an announcement that everyone should travel to their hometown and be counted.

So Joe and his girl Mary headed for Bethlehem to be counted. Joe was kin to King David who claimed Bethlehem as his home. Mary went with him because she was pregnant and Joe was the only one who would take care of her. She was in a tough situation because she had agreed to marry Joe before she got pregnant. Joe, being the good guy that he was, decided to go through with the marriage so Mary wouldn't get kicked out on the street.

When they got to Bethlehem they couldn't find a place to stay. Mary was going into labor and so Joe, in desperation, begged an Innkeeper to give them a place for shelter. The Innkeeper didn't have a room but sent them to the cow shed where Mary gave birth to a boy. They wrapped him in cloths and put him in the feed trough where the hay would be soft and keep him warm.

While all this was happening to Joe and Mary, an angel appeared to a bunch of sheepherders who were in a field nearby. They were just minding their business and taking care of the flock so no predators or thieves could get them. But, the angel showed up and about scared them out of their skin before saying, "Chill dudes! I'm bringing good news. You should be happy. Your Savior has just been born over in Bethlehem. Get up and go over there. He's lying in a feed trough in the stable."

When the angel had finished saying this, a whole bunch of his buddies showed up and started singing, "Glory to God in the highest! Peace y'all." And with that, they disappeared.

So, the sheepherders discussed it among themselves and decided they should head into Bethlehem to see if there really was a baby lying in a feed trough. They were having a hard time believing what they just saw and wanted proof.

Well, they went and saw him all right. It was just like the angel said. When they started telling what happened, everyone looked at them like they were crazy. But, Mary and Joe knew. In fact Mary, like most women, remembered the event in detail and verified their presence when this story all got written down.

It didn't matter to the sheepherders that no one believed them. They kept telling the story anyway. It was all so crazy it had to be true.

There are several reasons that I have re-written the story of the birth of Jesus in more common language. The first is this: It hopefully makes one think a little bit about the true conditions surrounding the event. 1) Mary was a pregnant, unwed teenager who was taken in by a good friend. 2) She rode a donkey a pretty good distance while on the verge of giving birth -- I suspect it might have hurried the process. 3) Even heartless people (the Innkeeper) occasionally show a little compassion. 4) People can be resourceful when they have to be (having a baby in a barn, wrapping him in rags, using hay to keep warm). 5) Abortion wasn't an option even for this young, teenage, unwed girl (the course of history would have changed). 6) Common people are often involved in uncommon events (Mary and Joseph, the shepherds).

The second reason is this: If you're having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit, think about this first Christmas. Things didn't quite go like Joseph had planned. 1) I suspect he planned on staying with relatives or at the Inn. For whatever reason, it didn't work out. 2) I suspect he didn't plan on the baby being born in Bethlehem. The donkey ride probably sped up the process. 3) Joseph most likely would have preferred better conditions for Mary when the baby was born -- at least somewhere other than a barn.

The third reason is this: Miracles, belief in God, acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Messiah, will always be ridiculed -- just as the shepherds were ridiculed for their wild tale. We all should have their attitude of "so what, we believe it and we're telling it just like it happened" anyway!


i beati said...

AMEN!!!May you and yours have a blessed , special holdiady for after all a baby king is born who will save the world. No matter how dispirited I might become, on Christmas Eve, I feel that Saviors birth all over again !!!

Plowing and Sowing said...

I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas. Take care if you are traveling over the holidays.

MotherPie said...

When I taught 8th grade SS I would always begin December with the age that Mary was and the age that most people married back then. Then I would ask for a show of hands of how many wanted to marry and have a family. All hands went up. Then I would ask them how many would be ready the next year (0) or by 18 (0) or by 20(0) or by 22 (0). No one raised a hand until 25 and the majority raised hands at 27.

We have the Pasado enactments in Santa Fe (Mary and Joseph going house-to-house for a place to stay).

Merry Christmas.

P.S. Glad Blogger put link-backs to sites of non-Bloggers.

ptg said...

Thank you.