While having my early morning coffee, two Christmas stories came to mind. Here’s a little something for you to investigate before Christmas. Don’t be shy! Get out those Bibles and do some reading! Don’t trust what I have to say! Ha!
Christmas is one of the most celebrated events in Christianity and throughout the world. Of the four Gospels, only Matthew and Luke describe the birth of Jesus. The description of his birth is not found in any other place in the Bible. Mark’s Gospel starts Jesus’ ministry as an adult, and John states that Jesus has been forever. The Apostle Paul believes that Jesus is born of a woman (Galatians 4:4).
Christmas Pageant Time
The Christmas Pageants put on by several schools each year combines the stories of Matthew and Luke, giving us one complete story. By combining these two stories, we hear and see what most of us grew up with, believing that this newly conflated story is the way it really happened.
But if you read Matthew and Luke individually and note what each one says, you’ll see they disagree. For example, Matthew has Joseph and Mary living in Bethlehem when Jesus is born. Luke had them living in Nazareth, and they had to travel to Bethlehem for a census, and while there, Jesus was born.
Notes from Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 1:18-2:23):
- Joseph and Mary live in Bethlehem
- Angel appears to Joseph in a dream
- Wise men from the East follow a star
- The wise men visit the house where baby Jesus was presumably born
- The wise men give gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh
- Herod sends out men to kill all babies under the age of two in Bethlehem
- Joseph flees to Egypt with Mary and Jesus
- When Herod died, Joseph and his family moved to Nazareth
Notes from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2:1-40):
- Joseph and Mary live in Nazareth
- Angel appears to Mary
- Emperor Augustus sends out a decree
- Joseph and Mary travel 90 miles to Bethlehem
- No room at the Inn, Jesus born in a horse stall
- Angel tells nearby Shepherds that their Messiah was born today
- Shepherds visit baby Jesus in a manger
- After eight days, Jesus was circumcised and brought to Jerusalem
- The family returns to Nazareth
Harmonization of the Two Stories
As you can see from my notes, these two stories don’t match up. The Christmas Pageant story of today harmonizes the birth stories of Matthew and Luke, taking only the good parts from each. Nobody wants to hear about the massacre of children. We want a happy ending where the Shepherds and the Magi with the gifts all huddle around baby Jesus in a manger. Amen! And Merry Christmas!
Coffee’s on me this morning. How about a Christmas blend?
Bonus: Create your own version of the Christmas Pageant by combining the two stories using all of Matthew and all of Luke and share it with us. That’s worth an extra cup of coffee!