Thursday, December 24, 2009


When Cara was two years old, Lisa observed her reciting Jesus’ nativity. Lisa penned as Cara spoke. Below are Cara’s words.
“Mary and Joseph went to the man at the boss-house and said, ‘Boss, do you have any place for Mary to sleep?’
“Then they went to the other boss and said, ‘Do you have any beds for Mary?’
“And Mary said, ‘My baby is about to come out.’
“And the boss said, ‘You can sleep with my animals.’
“But Mary said, ‘It’s too dirty.’ So Mary and Joseph went to the stable, and nothing licked her or bit her, and then Baby Jesus came out!’
“The animals were so happy, and they loved him. And the angels came, and the shepherds came, and the kings came, and the camels came because they have humps to hold water.
“We are so happy that Jesus was born. He is a wonderful baby.
“Baby Jesus is the Son of God!” — Cara age 2½
The word translated, “manger” in Luke 2 is translated “stall” or “stable” in Luke 13. A search of the LXX shows that the word consistently means stall or stable. Looking at the Hebrew words behind the Greek Septuagint, they likewise means stall, stable, or sheepfold.
Context influences but does not change the literal meaning of words. Tradition influences translations, but often tradition obscures the truth and beauty of Scripture. Looking at the context of Luke 2, we see the angels surprising the shepherds, saying,
Fear not! for behold I announce to you good news – great joy which shall be to all the people. For to you was born to day a deliverer who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this is the sign to you: you shall find the babe being swaddled, lying in a stable.
Luke 2:10-12 (AB)
Tradition broadens the meaning of the Greek word, phatnh, to mean “manger” or “feeding trough.” By so doing, tradition obscures the poetry of Scripture, which instead tells us that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was born in a sheepfold – the most likely place for shepherds to search.
Tradition may correctly capture the humility of Jesus’ birth, but it misses the the powerful image of Jesus’ humble birth portending his sacrificial death.
Perhaps, John the Baptist knew of Jesus’ humble beginning when upon seeing Jesus, declared, “See, the Lamb of God! the one carrying the sin of the world!” John 1:29 (AB)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I feel conflicted about Christmas. I'm happily anticipating the holiday this year for several reasons. It will be a long weekend away from the office. My older kids will come home. Dad will come down. We’ll give gifts to the kids. I enjoy the decorations Lisa displays in the house. The ornaments on the Christmas tree remind me of years past. Lisa is a wonderful cook, and I enjoy what she feeds me.
Nevertheless, there are many things that puzzle me about Christmas. The New Testament church did not celebrate what we call Christmas. The Bible is ambiguous regarding the time of Jesus’ birth, but better guesses would indicate that it did not occur in December. Personally, I think Sukkot, or Feast of Booths, is the likely anniversary of Jesus incarnation. He who came to tabernacle among men ordained this day to remind Israel that they were travelers in a hostile land. Israel was to look forward to the promise of rest that is fulfilled only in Jesus Christ. In defense of December 25, I concede that if Sukkot is the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, then sometime around the end of December the Annunciation would have occurred (Luke 1:26-38).
I am puzzled by Christians who “defend” Christmas by confronting society with what they perceive as improper celebrations. This seems by be a type of bully evangelism over the sanctity of a day never ordained in Scripture. Surely, a little peace on earth and good will toward men would be more appropriate.
At the same time, I’m puzzled by Christians who incorporate a non-Christian deity (Santa Claus) in their celebration regardless of their passion for Christmas. Consider the attributes of Santa Claus (omniscience, omnipresence, immortality, etc) and tell me that he isn’t a deity.
I am puzzled by Christians who justify the Christmas tree by quoting legends about Martin Luther, or by associating the Christmas tree with the cross. To me, the Christmas tree is a place where we celebrate family. If Jesus bore my sins in his body on the cross (1 Peter 1:24), why would I hang sentimental ornaments on a Christmas tree that symbolizes the cross of suffering and shame? Moreover, if the Christmas tree holds any religious significance at all, why would I bring such an idol (object of reverence) into my house?
Around Christmastime, I remind myself that Christians have only one New Covenant holiday. According to Hebrews 3:7, Hebrews 4:7, and Psalm 95:7-8, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Today, is the day that God established. Today, we commemorate the incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in our lives. Today, we respond to God’s voice in faith. I ask myself, while we have Today, what value does Christmas add?
While I debate the Christian’s proper response to the Christmas holiday, I am also amazed that for a day or a season, much of the world pauses and some men still contemplate that, He who was from the beginning, appeared to men, announcing the Word of life (1 John 1:1-2). I am awestruck when I contemplate that the Word, who called the universe into existence,  became flesh and tabernacled among men. (John 1:1-14, Hebrews 1:1-2)
I am reminded that upon the birth of Jesus Christ, God reached out both to the shepherds who were nearby, and to the Magi who were far away, and he drew them to His Son. We should celebrate this, Today.