This time last year, our church went through a series called “Christmas Through the Eyes of…” and each week it was a different character from the Christmas story. My dad, the pastor of our church, was really at a loss for what to do Christmas Eve, so I suggested they finish it out with “Christmas Through the Eyes of Jesus.” So, Christmas Eve last year, I helped organize and orchestrate the Christmas Eve service. The first half was focused on the glory of God and the second half was focused on His incarnation. Very cool. But, while thinking about the Christmas story last year, I wrote “Abe’s Story” (the story in “My Writings” at the moment) as well as the following. It’s not really a story, just my thoughts on Christmas…
Christmas. What a wonderful time of year to stop and reflect on all God has done for us. I, personally, am a huge fan of Christmas and all it represents. I have one of the biggest imaginations ever, so it’s fun for me to sit and think about all the different characters in the Bible (written and assumed) and how they reacted to that first Christmas so many years ago. People like the Innkeeper and his wife who (depending on how you look at it) turned Mary and Joseph away OR did them a favor by giving them a room in a barn. The wives of the magi. Did they have wives? If they did, what did they think of their husbands going off on a couple year excursion led by a star? What about the wives of the shepherds? Did anyone else get woken up by loud music and a giant night-light that night or did everyone in Bethlehem sleep through the angels’ announcement, besides the shepherds? What about all the street beggars that seemed to fill Israel – what did they see and hear? How did Mary and Joseph’s parents, grandparents, and the rest of their families react to their big news? So many people…so many questions. So many ways you could finish the sentence, “through the eyes of…” in reference to the biggest Christian holiday of the year.
As I sat pondering these people, real or imagined, I began to ask myself, why didn’t God include more details in the Christmas story? It’s so short. If you just read through Matthew or Luke, you tend to miss subtle details that are just kind of said in passing. There is so much more there than at first glance. Things like, “…and laid Him in a manger for there was no room for them in the inn.” What? A manger? No room? There has got to be more to the story than that short line! Isn’t there?
The answer is, yes- yes there is more to the story. In fact, there’s probably a lot more to the story. Just knowing devout Jewish history to a small degree means you know that the odds of people wanting to stone Mary are very high. The odds of her and Joseph being ostracized from their families are huge. And I can’t imagine any young teenage girl dying to give birth in a barn. Yes, there is more to the Christmas story. So, why didn’t God put more details in the Bible?
Well, let’s think this through. How many books and songs and movies have been written depicting the Christmas story from the perspectives of people who were there? It’s all speculation, so why the big deal? Because we’re curious! Because we want to know! Because it helps us make the Christmas story seem more real, more palatable, if we can think it through in terms of it happening to real people. It’s truly thought-provoking and insightful and you can learn so much from people like the Innkeeper or the shepherds.
Now, imagine if God did put more details into the Christmas story. Imagine if we knew the names of Mary’s brothers and sisters and parents and grandparents. Imagine if we could read the dialogue between her and her mother when Mary told her about her encounter with the angel. Imagine if we knew the shepherd’s names and backgrounds and what they did with their lives after spending a night worshiping the Christ child. Imagine if we knew the motivation behind the Innkeeper sending a young Jewish girl to give birth in a barn. Would this make the Christmas story easier to understand… or harder? Would we learn more… or would we just read more?
More importantly, where would our focus be? On the characters surrounding the story…or on the focal point of the story?
I believe that God didn’t include lots of extra details because He wanted to keep everything surrounding the birth of His Son simple. If Jesus didn’t arrive with pomp and circumstance, then the story of His birth shouldn’t include multiple characters and their life histories. It should be simple. Gloriously simple. There’s a lot left to the imagination because I think God wanted it that way. You learn more when you’re not told every single detail of every single story.
This leads me to my second point. So much time has been put into thinking about Christmas through the eyes of other people that we’ve forgotten the most important Person in the Christmas story. What about Christmas through the eyes of Jesus?
Mary obeyed God…and gave up her reputation, her family, her home, and her future.
Jesus obeyed God…and gave up heaven.
Mary gave birth to her first son in a barn.
Jesus, the only Son of God, was born in a barn.
Joseph raised a son that was not his own.
The shepherds were the first to witness the Shekinah glory of God returning to earth.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the incarnate Shekinah glory of God on earth.
The magi followed a star to their King.
Jesus was the King.
What was Jesus thinking that first night? Was He thinking…
“I picked such pretty eyes for Mary.”
“Joseph’s hands are so rough from molding the wood I made.”
“I wrote that song the angels are singing!”
“The shepherds who take care of the sacrificial lambs have no idea the irony at this moment.”
“It’s so dark down here.”
We focus so much on the “others” in the Christmas story that we forget sometimes the only One that really matters in the story.
Christmas through the eyes of Jesus.
What was He thinking that one silent night so long ago?