“What to Make of the Christmas Story” by Doug Bennett

From a message by Doug Bennett, November 26, 2017

Here is something surprising about the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke, the only Gospels with Christmas stories: there is never any mention of the Jesus’s birth in the Gospels or in the rest of the New Testament for that matter. It’s as if everyone forgot about that miracle birth. No one ever says to Jesus, “Aren’t you that guy that was born under a gigantic star?” Or “aren’t you the one the Magi came and showered gifts on? Whatever became of all that gold? Do you have a trust fund?” Or even, “wow, you must be the real deal! I remember what a fuss the angels made about your birth. That was amazing!”

Not a word. If no one in the Bible remembers, why do we make such a deal out of it? The collective amnesia is all the more surprising when we remember that the Gospels are full of hints and suggestions and confusions about whether Jesus really is the Son of God. Wouldn’t this have clinched it, if someone had just said: “Remember the amazing birth, the Magi and the angels and all that?” So what’s the point of these two Christmas stories that are part of these Gospels and yet not part of them?

There were plenty of other born-of-a-God stories in the world into which Jesus was born: Achilles (in the Iliad), Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar: all claimed to have gods as parents. This Jesus that is born in glory turns out to be completely different from anyone else who has a “born-of-a-God” beginning. Those others were garden-variety heroes, strong warriors, born to rule and to dominate others. Those others become powerful. They dominated others. They had the ‘right stuff’. Now in Jesus we have something completely different. Strength is turning the other cheek. Love, not power is the major chord. Peace seeking, humility and simplicity are the order of the day.

For me, it’s not possible to understand the Christmas story without thinking about the other stories about Jesus that the Gospels tell, the stories after the Christmas story. These are stories that challenge us to live a different life.

Every so often you read a story about a guy who seemed to have everything: smarts and charm and wealth, and then it all goes bad. Everything sours. He ends up without friends, in prison, and finally he’s executed. Maybe he was guilty of something, maybe he wasn’t. But he’s forgotten soon after the news story. So sad, we say.

Jesus’s story is like that. It starts in glory and ends in execution. Only we’re not supposed to think ‘so sad’. When Jesus dies, he is ushering in something completely different; he triumphs. But he triumphs only if we follow the new way: the way of love and forgiveness. We certainly won’t see that surprising triumph if we only remember the first part of the story, the part in which he is born having it all, a good family, wealth and adoration. It’s what happens next that really matters. So stay tuned. Can we make the new way triumph?


The entire message can be found at the blog River View Friend.