I’ve really never studied much about the Nativity until this year, and I’ve found the differences in the Gospels about the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, fascinating.
For example, did you know Mark and John don’t even touch on the birth of Jesus? Instead, their Gospels essentially begin with Jesus as an adult being baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist — almost as though they were more interested in starting out with his spiritual birth rather than his physical birth.
The story of Jesus’ birth can, however, be found in Matthew and Luke. Even then, the narratives in the two versions are very different from each other.
For example, Matthew is very straight-to-the-point about Jesus’ birth, spending little time on it, and then he goes into great detail about the visit by the wise men and Herod’s attempt to find and kill Jesus by misleading them. Interestingly enough, there is no mention of Jesus being born in a manger in Matthew’s Gospel, instead indicating the wise men came to a “house” to see Jesus and pay homage.
Luke, on the other hand, spends a lot more time on the birth of Jesus. He goes into great detail about Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem because of the census. There was no room in the inn where they stayed so Jesus was born in a manger instead. Rather than a visit from wise men, it was shepherds who came to see Jesus at the behest of a host of angels.
To be honest, in my mind I had always combined these two versions of the birth of Jesus into one story, not really understanding they were two separate accounts.
What a truly miraculous story it is, however, no matter from which perspective you take it.
I’d like to share two good points about the Nativity I learned last week.
One comes from a brief sermon I heard on the radio with the pastor talking about how the “no room in the inn” for Jesus line in the Nativity story was an appropriate metaphor for how we often don’t make room for Jesus in our lives, even at Christmas time, and instead we need to make sure we do — not just at Christmas, but year round. What a terrific and timely reminder.
The other was from my good friend Bruce Williamson, who sent me a column from an economist he follows. The economist made the argument that although the innkeeper is often portrayed as evil because all he provided Mary and Joseph was his manger rather than a room at his inn, that actually he is benevolent for doing so. The government requiring the census, causing everyone to have to travel all over the Middle East for no reason, was the real culprit here. The innkeeper was simply trying to find a way to accommodate these weary travelers, and he did the best he could.
So many good lessons to learn from the Nativity story and from the Bible as a whole.
So little time.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
— Patrick Graham is the owner of The Times-Journal.