Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Story of the Christ Child

At work, I began a discussion about having religious Christmas music playing and whether or not anyone was bothered by it. Generic secular Christmas music certainly doesn't bother me, in fact, I rather enjoy it! Even the religious music doesn't bother me as much. I grew up with it, so I sort of have nostalgic feelings towards it. Although, "Silent Night" and anything specifically referencing a virgin birth is sort of weird to me when it plays in a public place. Like a restaurant. I just think it's a little odd in a restaurant where a decent percentage of our guests are Jewish or non-religious.

Gross. That's just weird.
This led to me telling a story about my best friend in 6th grade whose father was Catholic and her mother Jewish. The family celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas. Coming from an area with very few Jewish families, my friend and neighbor explained to me the story of Hanukkah and its traditions. However, while the family put up Christmas decorations and exchanged presents on Christmas, my friend had never been to a Catholic church and had absolutely no idea what the Biblical Christmas story was... so I explained it to her.

Now, as I told this story, a co-worker who grew up in a relatively non-religious household confessed that as an adult, he really didn't know the Biblical story either. So, I tried to explain it. And I laughed. It really sounded ridiculous.
An angel tells a teenage girl named Mary that she's going to have a baby! But Mary is a VIRGIN! Mary cons her boyfriend, Joseph, into marrying her so she will be respectable. Joseph calls Mary a lying whore and stomps off. That night, he's visited by an angel in a dream, telling him that Mary is telling the truth. This scares the crap out of Joseph, so he marries the now-pregnant-by-God Mary.
When Mary is uber-pregnant, the couple travels to Bethlehem to pay taxes (or participate in the census, depending on the version). Mary rides on a donkey. Anyway, when they get to Bethlehem, the inns are all booked up, so they end up sleeping in a stable. There, Mary gives birth to Jesus. And a whole boatload of angels show up and sing, probably freaking everybody out.

Meanwhile, a great big star shines overhead, and a bunch of shepherds travel to the stable and pay homage to Jesus. Because some angels told them to do it. OR if you read a different account, some "wise men" see the star, interpret it as a sign, and travel all the way to Bethlehem from who knows where and bring Baby Jesus some useless, but probably valuable gifts.
Wow.  As always, you can count on Wikipedia for plainly spelling out all of the wonderful contradictions that exist in the Bible even for the most simple of stories. I love it. And as an adult, I now get to enjoy the incredulity on the faces of those who grew up in a totally secular environment as I tell the traditional Christian story of Christmas.

But you know the version I like best? The short, but sweet, version told on Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special, our household's favorite holiday movie tradition! It's utterly delightful.

It's the TRUE MEANING of Christmas at 1:20. Thanks for explaining it to me Pee Wee!

1 comment:

  1. So the wise men were from the East. It says that in one of the gospels i think luke. And according to the Bible they saw a star in the east that led them to Bethlehem. this would indicate that said wisemen essentially circumnavigated the GLOBE to get to Jesus when they could've just gone a few miles west. This is why I don't take travel tips from stars, especially ones that didn't exist three days earlier.


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