photo by Mike McCune
I’m reading a book right now (listening to it, actually) titled The Truth According to Us. This post has nothing to do with that novel, however. Just the title. It intrigues me. From what I’ve observed, we may uphold truth, but only the truth as we understand it. And when you think about it, that makes some sense. We are leaning on our own understanding. But, as sometimes happens in the aging process, the time comes when you realize you might not have an open mind when you lean on your own understanding. If you look, observe, take plenty of time, you might just see something you hadn’t seen before.
The Christmas Story
Take the Christmas story for example. The birth of Jesus. I’ve been seeing some posts on social media claiming that we’ve gotten it all wrong our whole lives. Jesus was not born in a stable. Houses had a level where they kept the animals, and it’s likely Joseph and Mary stayed with one of his relatives on the bottom level of the house. There was no inn nor any innkeeper to turn them away, not according to the Bible.
When I was teaching kindergarten, and in charge of the Christmas pageant, I needed an innkeeper. There were not enough parts for all the children, and there was always one child who wanted a speaking part, but didn’t want to be an angel. And if we did not have the drama of Mary and Joseph being turned away on that cold night, with the birth of the baby drawing near, there wouldn’t be enough drama for the play. I’m sure the innkeeper was invented by a bedraggled Kindergarten teacher probably sometime in the 2nd century.
photo: Crosswinds Community
Wherever they stayed, it was probably awkward, and not Mary’s first choice of birthing locations. We are given the story of a homeless family, although temporarily homeless. We are given a story that tugs at our hearts. The son of God coming without any earthly fan fare. If it weren’t for the angels speaking to the shepherds, or the star leading the wise men from the East, no one would have noticed, save for Mary and Joseph. The lack of the people’s understanding of what had happened could make a series of sermons, and probably has now that I think about it.
The Truth According to God
But that’s not the whole story. When I took the time to step away from the pageant (I haven’t taught Kindergarten for many years now) I began to see another story entirely. The one I think is the point of the whole thing. In the Book of Matthew 1:23, during the dream that Joseph had where an angel told him what was about to happen, lies a phrase that is so miraculous, so incredible and difficult to understand that it is sometimes washed over.
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
I’m not talking about the fact that a virgin was going to give birth, which of course is miraculous, incredible, and difficult to understand. That is part of the Christmas story that we are very familiar with. I’m focused on the second part of that verse: Emmanuel, which means God with us. It’s incredible when you look at history. God had been silent for hundreds of years. And then….with us, in the flesh, to walk with people, eat with them, teach them, heal them, die, and rise from the grave. That is God being personal and intimate with his creation in a way he had not been for many generations.
What I Try to Remember
God is with us. We are his beloved children, members of his family. I ask myself if I have prepared my heart for his arrival. The people of his day had not. But I have the advantage of knowing the story. But then again, they had the prophecy.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.~Isaiah 7:14
They were still not ready. I’m not sure I am either, not the way I should be. But I try. I try to remember all these things like Mary did.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. ~Luke 2:19
photo by PROWaiting For The Word