Christmas is upon us, and so will be the countless variants on the re-telling of the Bible accounts of Jesus’ birth. Our Western society seems to have modified the Nativity scene in a way that is condensed and palatable for their audience. Here are 2 common Christmas myths debunked to help you appreciate baby Jesus in a deeper light:
The Surly Innkeeper
The imagery in Luke 2:7 where Joseph and Mary are being denied lodging by a surly, tall, unknown innkeeper is a myth. While we may perceive the word “Inn” akin to that of “Holiday Inn”, full of separated rooms and amenities, this is highly unlikely in the small village of Bethlehem. So then this is no hotel manager we are dealing with, nor did they knock on dozens of closed doors and turn in dismay to “sorry we are full” signs.
Joseph and Mary were not rejected from Holiday Inn (of America)
A careful reading of the Greek also shows that the the common word for Inn (Pandeon) is not used, but rather a household term (Kataluma) the same used for Jesus in the upper room took the Last Supper. If it was a household that was full, it is more probable that Joseph went to his ancestral home but it was already full of his own relatives who got their earlier.
This brings an interesting point, that Joseph and Mary were denied birth in a guest room of a family home, but rather were lodged in the back, lower level of the house (or cave). We’re not sure why a pregnant woman was not prioritized accordingly, but it was far from negligence – in the setting they were in they would at least be protected from the cold, thieves, and predators. But it still begs the question why not in the house itself with the comfort of relatives? Perhaps Joseph was not as high in family seniority. Perhaps Joseph as a righteous man did not push for concessions. Or perhaps as Philippians 2:6-7 would say – Jesus would be born into obscurity and “make himself nothing” for you and me.
3 Wise Men
The claim that 3 God-fearing wise men, traditionally named Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar visited Jesus on the same day he was born bearing 3 sets of gifts – Gold, Myrrh, and Incense. Let’s break this one apart:
- It’s more likely the number is more than 3, as travelling caravans are known to bring along servants to help carry their wares. The Bible provides no specific number, although the number 3 has been a tradition for thousands of years
- They visited Jesus after his birth, not during. The Bible makes it clear they visited Mary in the “house” and not the “Manger” (Matthew 2:11). They are not included in Luke’s account with the shepherds visit.
- These “wise men” (or Magi more precisely) were far from the Christian, God-fearing Bible bearded men portrayed in media. They were Pagan astrologers who practiced the occult.
The last point is provocative. “Magi” are people who practiced Magic which is condemned throughout the Old Testament. It is more accurate to say Gandalf and Dumbledore were coming to worship Baby Jesus than it is to say 3 “wise” men did.
You say wha bro?
These people were far from picture perfect and if you’ve lost that then you’ve missed out on what Christmas is really about.
Christmas is not a neat packaged story that begins with happiness and in glamour. Christmas is about God coming in to Earth in the most humble, humiliating way and drawing together the most backwards, rejected characters of the Bible. The funny thing is that one set wanted him killed (Herod, Pharisees), and another wanted to worship him (Shepherds, Magi). Jesus did all this so we could identify with him. Because the reality is that we are no better than these Magi. But God loves us so much, that he gave his one and only son. True giving always requires sacrifice.
May you worship Jesus Christ in a deeper light today.