From Whence the Christmas Story
Author: Carolyn Gard
And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
It’s Advent, and time to set up my creche sets – 16 of them. I love taking them out every year, remembering where I got them, and arranging them. I like the many interpretations of the scene, especially the animals the artists chose. Many of the animals reflect the geographic origins of the artist: llamas, bears, deer, badgers, raccoons, rabbits, dogs, cats. Then there are the humorous ones: mice, a skunk, one with a polar bear and a penguin, and my favorite – Stella Teller from the Isleta Pueblo puts a pig in her scenes.
This ritual got me to thinking about how we know about the Christmas story; I don’t think the shepherds kept diaries of that night. No one followed Jesus for the next thirty years. I came up with two scenarios as to how we got the story.
First, Jesus and the disciples are sitting around the campfire telling stories. Jesus says, “Let me tell you the story my mother told me about the night I was born.”
The other scenario has Luke sitting with some scholars deciding what to put in his gospel. Luke wonders if they have any idea about what happened at Jesus’s birth. One of the men replies, “My family has a story that my great-great grandfather, a shepherd near Bethlehem, told. His story was that one night there was a bright light, music, and angels. All the shepherds went to a barn to see a newborn baby.” He laughs. “We all assumed he’d been alone with the sheep too much.”
However Luke got the Christmas story, we love it and look forward to it every year. It reminds us that God sent a gift of a son, a son who was born not in a palace or plucked from the bulrushes by Pharaoh’s daughter, but born in a lowly stable. As we light the Advent candles the story brings us hope, love, joy, and peace.
So, true or not, we’re not going to get rid of the Christmas story, the beautiful music it inspired, and the wonder it brings us. Besides, if we did get rid of it, we’d have to get rid of the Christmas pageant. And then what would we do with all of those angel and shepherd costumes?
God, you gave us the gift of your son. You also inspired us with the Christmas story. May we have the courage to bring hope, love, joy, and peace to the world.