I didn’t write this. It is a guest post from Mrs Lambert, so be nice.
Everyone knows the Christmas story. Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem, the Inn is full so Mary has to give birth in a stable. The story sounds sweet, emphasizing the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth.
But that’s not the message people got from the story two thousand years ago. Here’s the way they would have seen it:
Mary is pregnant, but Joseph, the man she is engaged to, is not the father and everyone knows it. Mary would have been labeled a whore.
Joseph didn’t reject her despite the huge social pressure on him to do so. When Joseph and Mary got to his hometown Bethlehem, no relatives took them in. At that time the rules of hospitality were that if you travel to another town your relatives take you in, and if you have no relatives there then strangers take you in. You would think that at least someone would take pity on a heavily pregnant woman but if she was known as promiscuous- well, no one would want anything to do with her.
So, they had to resort to trying to find room in an inn. Inns at that time were disgusting, flea infested, rat infested places that only merchants and criminals would stay at. No self respecting person would want to stay there. But even there they were rejected. It is possible that the inn was full because of a census but there are no records of a census taking place at that time.
So they got permission to stay in the barn. Let’s look at the situation through Mary’s eyes. Here she is, about to give birth to her first child. She must have been terrified. And hurt. She’d been rejected in her own town, now she’d been rejected in Bethlehem and was giving birth to her child like an animal without even a midwife to help her through this new and excruciatingly painful experience. Yes, it helped that Joseph was there. But still.
OK, the baby Jesus is born. A time for rejoicing right? Well, not necessarily for Mary. By Jewish law Joseph would have to leave her, so Jesus would grow up without him. Her son would grow up forever being called a bastard. He wouldn’t be allowed to play with normal kids- he’d have to play with the children of other outcasts. Also, his marriage prospects would be bleak. He couldn’t marry just anyone- he had to marry someone of questionable parentage or mixed marriage. And he had to grow up knowing that the Torah said that no bastard to even 10 generations would be a part of God’s people. So his children would be cursed this way as well.
But surely she knew he was the Son of God. Well, if she could have seen into the future, I doubt she would have been comforted by it. She would have seen that he would rebel against the rabbis and start a movement that would lead to him being worshiped all over the world by Gentiles and that millions of her own people would be slaughtered directly because of him… hardly something she’d be proud of.
So the real Christmas story is one of humiliation and rejection – something not so sweet and certainly not something you’d want to tell your children. So don’t.
Personally I think Jesus was a gift to the Gentile world. His message of compassion towards the poor and the outcasts has lasted to this day and leads to social cohesion. He was against organized religion and the hypocrisy that it lead to. You read the Sermon on the Mount and his criticisms of leaders are still very relevant today. His rules of living are simple and relevant- love God, love and help others no matter what their religion or social status or beliefs, make peace with your enemies, forgive people when they hurt you, live simply, do not judge others. He was against violence in in no way would have supported all the cruelty that was done in his name. Maybe one day everyone will live by his principles and then Mary, seeing into the future, could have been happy to bear him. May that be soon!