My celebration of Christmas was designed only a couple of centuries ago from Charles Dickens, macy’s dept store and…. It has always been beautiful. It is the manger scene with sweet baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the angels and the star. It became the time of year when children could be spoiled with an outpouring of gifts without feeling like you were “damaging” your child. It is giving. It is singing the carols. It is colorful red and green. It is Frosty and Rudolph. It is the heritage of the creativity and heart of America.
The true meaning of Christmas is life-changing for all of us. The nativity I place on my mantel every year has been mystical and very American. Since going to Israel and seeing the land and the culture, my picture of Jesus has expanded. My imagination goes wild thinking about how it might have been. The main thing for me is that Jesus was actually born as a baby and grew up, died, went to heaven and now lives in me. Maybe the details are not that important.
Several years ago when I was putting the wisemen in their standard spot to the right of my mini Christmas stable, I started hearing that they may have not arrived when Jesus was a baby. According to history and the Bible account, the planet that was brighter than all stars showed up at a specific year and date. That time was a ways after the birth of Jesus. The men supposedly studied the stars. It all coincided with King Herod ordering all the toddler boys to be killed. The wisemen therefore did not go back to the king. They were protecting the son of God.
The idea of a star over the baby at his birth is not included in scripture. Only with the wisemen. I also pictured Mary giving birth instantly the night when they arrived. According to historical documents and Bible translation from Hebrew, it is possible that her time had come a little bit later.
I read that the inn has a different translation than “a hotel”. “Kataluma”, the Greek word, means a guest room, usually a relative’s home. Homes and farms in Israel and all throughout history are not like what we know. There are families in clustered buildings. Animals were often brought into a foyer area at the front where a manger full of hay would provide nourishment. It was constantly swept out and was very clean because it was a part of the house. Historians believe that it could be a possibility that Mary and Joseph were not in a dirty stable but in a place where there was much traffic of family and animals in and out. There was human protection under God's mighty hand. It all matches up with how the peasants dwelt. It was lowly but substantial. Families gave what they had.
The people of Israel and that time and even now are family oriented. People would be taken in quickly. A good place for a baby is in a manger - traditionally made of stone and molded from the floor up. Very safe and secure.
Well, we really don’t know. None of us were there. I have found it interesting to delve a little deeper and add to see the Biblical account within the context of history and culture. The Bible didn’t include everything for a reason, but it is fun to tie the culture and traditions of Israel and its landscape to the natural way things unfolded. Trying to imagine is a strong part of meditative prayer for me. No matter what or how or when and where, the birth of Jesus is glorious.
And….that’s the way the plans of God unfold in all of life. It is in a natural way that ends up being phenomenal. Every culture with its own customs is loved by God.