Tag Archives: Christmas

Was Jesus born in a barn?

A Christmas play

No, probably not.

The popular imagining of the first Christmas, with innkeepers putting up ‘house full’ signs and finally pointing Joseph and Mary to an animal shed out the back, is unlikely to be the way it all happened.

Dr Lynn Cohick, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, spoke at St Paul’s last Sunday, and pointed out 3 reasons why that popular view of the first Christmas is unlikely:

1. In Middle Eastern culture, there is no way that a town would have not looked after one of their own, let alone a couple expecting a baby. The residents of the town would have done everything they could to accommodate the couple, out of hospitality, and for the honour of their town.

2. Bethlehem did not have hotels as we understand them. Instead, those who could afford them would build a ‘guest room’. The word in Luke’s gospel translated ‘inn’ (katalyma) is elsewhere translated in Luke as ‘upper room’- it was all of these ‘guest rooms’ that were full in the Christmas narrative.

3. Homes in Bethlehem were divided into 2 rooms: one for living/ cooing/ sleeping, and another for the animals. This is similar to modern day Masai homes which have a similar design. Animals were kept inside at night for their welfare and for security.

1st century Middle Eastern middle eastern floor plan, as per Kenneth Bailey (I don’t think it’s his Lego, though…)

So what happened?

Joseph and Mary stayed with another peasant family, who had no room in their normal living quarters or guests space, but accommodated them under the same roof in the best way they could.

Dr Cohick’s observations drew from Kenneth Bailey’s work on understanding Jesus through aide Eastern eyes – you can read some of his work on the Luke Christmas passages here.

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Santa explained

😉

Santa: venn diagram

Santa: venn diagram

 

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Can we all just get along? Guy Sebastian and peace on earth

I have been a long time admirer of Guy Sebastian. I watched him win Australian Idol all those years ago, and I have always been impressed by his vocal skills. The Memphis Album is a favourite.

I was fascinated to hear his new song performed on TV the other night. The words are below:

Some only want some shelter
Someone a mansion in the sky
Some want a thousand virgins
Some move battle with their mind

[Pre-Chorus]
And when all the worlds collide
All they know is too divide
And it’s easy if their faceless
To hate the other side
And the others caught between
Are the only ones to bleed
And the ones they leave behind
Can only sit and cry

[Chorus]
Dear God, dear soul
Dear Mary , Mohammed
Can we just get along
Can we just get along
Dear heart, dear life
Dear soldier, dear martyr
Where did we go wrong,
Can we all just get along

[Verse]
Some set fire to crosses
Some fight the right to cross their dream
Some don’t believe at all
But do anything to make the news

[Pre-Chorus]
And when all the worlds collide
All they know is too divide
And it’s easy if their faceless
To hate the other side
And the others caught between
Are the only ones to bleed
And the ones they leave behind
Can only sit and cry

[Chorus]
Dear God, dear soul
Dear Mary , Mohammed
Can we just get along
Can we just get along
Dear heart, dear life
Dear soldier, dear martyr
Where did we go wrong,
Can we all just get along

[Bridge]
Maybe if we’d work together
We’d already have a heaven here on earth

I was fascinated by this song because it is essentially John Lennon’s “Imagine” in a new dress for 2012. It is born of the same angst – a burden that has arisen by looking around the world and seeing all the fighting, and observing that lots of the fighting is done by people who claim to be religious (although I note the reference to people who don’t believe anything but do anything to get on the news). This sort of thinking leads to people dying, and people crying.

In many ways I feel the same, as does the average Aussie, I reckon. Why all the fighting? Is it really all that important? Can’t we all just stop it and get along, and talk about the cricket for a change? I mean, how long has Ponting got anyway?… And so the song is likely to go gang-busters here in Australia, because it will appeal to the Aussie sense of not-taking-yourself-too-seriously, urging people to pull-their-heads-in and get on with living life.

I’d love to endorse the message, but if you scratch just a little bit under the lyrics, I’m not sure it will stand under the burden of its own message. Mohammed said there was one way to Allah, and it was through him. Mary apparently will get you round about access to God, though Protestants would dispute her role in accessing the divine. Atheists think the very idea of asking any of these for peace is like talking to the fairies at the bottom of the garden. And none of those reckon that they can just give up their way of thinking any more now than when Lennon’s anthem debuted.

May I humbly suggest another way? The answer lies in Guy’s line: ‘Where did we go wrong?’ A possible answer: according to Jesus, humanity was created with 2 primary operating instructions. 1. Love God above else. 2. Love others as you love yourself. Guy has noted that we are really bad at the 2nd one as a human race, but its not because people believe in God. It’s because they don’t believe in him enough.

This Christmas, Jesus will be celebrated as the ‘Prince of Peace.’ This is not only because he makes relationship with the Maker possible again, but also because from that relationship flows a changed attitude to relationship with others. True followers of Jesus don’t give up on the idea of truth, but they love as they have been loved, and they give up assertion of self in favour of serving others as they have been served by Jesus. Those who don’t just aren’t taking it seriously enough, or being true to their confession.

I long for peace, but I’m not sure that pretending all the religions can just get along is the answer. For mine, it lies in following the way of the Prince of Peace.

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