The Scandal of the Christ Child

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12

The King of Creation, born a powerless babe to peasants in backwater Judea, itself a backwater of Rome, appearing to the world as nothing more than a poor bastard child. Welcomed by the company of livestock and the lowliest of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!

On December 19, Dr. Doug Bookman gave an impromptu sermon on the birth of Christ, specifically, on The Scandal of the Manger, and in the course of doing so explained relevant portions of contemporaneous Jewish culture and assailed several Christmas myths.  He spent a good amount of time explaining the prominence of the betrothal and marriage ceremony during the times of Mary and Joseph.  The marriage ceremony was a prolonged, multi-day celebration.  The event was known throughout the community and all were expected to express their support and enthusiasm.  The betrothal period was a time of anticipation as the families prepared for the celebration.

What utter shame and humiliation Mary and Joseph endured when Mary returned to Nazareth pregnant during her betrothal, and not with Joseph’s child.  It was a shame, Dr. Bookman contends, that caused them to permanently move to Joseph’s familial home of Bethlehem where Mary stayed until the time for her to give birth.  Luke 2:6.

Was Mary rejected from a public inn as conventionally told?  Dr. Bookman says “no.”  He contends that translators misinterpret Luke 2:7 when they say there was no room in the “inn” for them.  He says, it should say that there was no upper room or guest room for them.  According to Dr. Bookman, there was no such thing as an “inn” in the cities of first century Judea.  The same Greek word is used in other places throughout the NT where it is accurately translated as guest room or upper room.  See. e.g. Luke 22:11 (the guest room where Jesus held the last supper).  An upper room or guest room was an extra room families kept for honored guests.  Luke 2:6 suggests that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem some amount of time before Mary gave birth.  Dr. Bookman believes Joseph’s family refused to host Joseph with his betrothed and pregnant wife in their room for honored guests.  Betrothed and pregnant, Joseph and Mary were anything but honorable to their kin and fellow Jews.  The best Joseph’s relatives would give them was a manger (livestock cave) on the outskirts of town. This fits the Christmas story perfectly: hardship and humility.

God mocks what we too often take for wisdom and despises man’s pride.  When God sent his son to save mankind from sin, to show mankind our Lord, he sent the Christ child to be born in the backwater province of a pagan empire.  In the backwater province, the King was conceived in one of the poorest and most remote locations.  The wife and her husband were the poorest of poor, essentially peasants and nothing resembling human royalty.  And the pregnancy was completely scandalous.  The pregnancy shamed Mary and Joseph before all of Nazareth, all of Mary’s family.  When they left Nazareth for Bethlehem, Joseph’s family rejected close fellowship with them and sent them to live with the livestock.  Sorry, we can’t put you in our guest bedroom (what would the neighbors say?), but y’all can stay in our barn on the back 40.  The Christ child was born under shameful circumstances and in squalor.  His first visitors were shepherds, the poorest and least esteemed among the Israelites. 

Welcome Lord Jesus, creator of the Universe.  Of course, this is exactly what God planned and intended and revealed through prophesies over hundreds of years.  But who would have thought THAT’s what the prophecies meant?  And few could fathom that this all-powerful King would conquer through being tortured and crucified.  He confounds the proud.  Indeed, the proud never noticed the birth of Christ. 

It is that way still.

The God of creation became flesh under the most humble of circumstances.  That God became flesh is THE miracle.  If you can have faith that the Christ child was the begotten son of God, all the rest of the New Testament, indeed, of the entire Bible, is easy to believe. 

Merry Christmas!

See also I Wonder if We Wonder by Doug Bookman.

By Christ Ranger

God is great!

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