Seven Christmas Misconceptions

This entry was written by my friend, Dr. Wesley Scott, who is a colleague on the Liberty University faculty and the Educational Services Director for the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.  He is a critical thinker and when I read these on his Facebook wall, I asked his permission to share them with my Whirled Views Audience.

Seven Christmas Misconceptions

Common Christmas Misconception #1 – Jesus was not born on December 25, 1 AD. After years of study on this topic in reference to the appearance of an astronomical anomaly and the Roman rulers at the time of His birth, it is more likely that He was born somewhere between 3-5 BC and likely in the spring. December 25th is a traditional date first indicated by a Roman historian and orator in the 3rd century. While he and the Roman Catholic Church may have been incorrect in their date and year (Gregorian calendar) and since we cannot really pin down a specific date, we can still celebrate the incarnation of Christ on this date without any hesitation.
Common Christmas Misconception #2 – Joseph and Mary were not married when Jesus was born – well not quite. Joseph and Mary were “betrothed” or engaged to be married when he was told by the angel of Mary’s pregnancy. They had likely signed the “ketubbah” which was a Jewish contract of engagement – much more legally binding that our modern engagement. As instructed by the angel, he took Mary as his wife but did not consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born. So, in the public eye they were married, but technically since they had not consummated the marriage, they were not officially married – yet. Jesus was born into a questionable and some might say dysfunctional situation. Thus, He can relate to any type of difficult situation in which we find ourselves today – His life started out that way!
000nativityscene.jpgCommon Christmas Misconception #3 – The manger was not a stable in which the birth of Jesus took place. When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, since there was no room at any guest chamber (inn), they went to the place where the livestock were kept to lodge – which in that day was generally a small grotto or cave. The “manger” is actually the livestock feeding trough into which Jesus was laid after being wrapped in strips of cloth. (These were the two specific signs to the shepherds as to who the Messiah child was.) Whether your manger scene is a stable or cave really doesn’t matter. The point is that the King of Kings was born to a poor, Nazarene couple in a cave among the animals. Social pariahs, the poor, homeless, needy, lower class, tired, sick, and even animals would all play key roles in the life and ministry of Jesus.
000angels.jpgCommon Christmas Misconception #4 – The angels who appeared to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth did not sing. As wonderful and glorious as an angelic choir might sound, the Bible tells us the angel appeared with a heavenly host of other angels to the shepherds and they were “saying, Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” In fact there is no place in Scripture where it is clear that the angels “sing” at all (although there are a few questionable references). Regardless, I think it is key that the first declaration of Jesus’ birth was made to shepherds – among the lowest class of citizens in that day. Not to mention that Jesus would identify with both the shepherds and the sheep as our Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So go ahead – sing out “Gloria, in excelsis Deo” – I’m sure God won’t mind at all.
Common Christmas Misconception #5 – The shepherds did not follow the star to the place where Jesus was born. They were instructed by the angel to look for the Christ child “in the city of David” – which is Bethlehem. Two other signs to His location were that He would be 1) wrapped in swaddling clothes and 2) lying in a manger. We’ve already dealt with the manger (see Sunday), but what are swaddling clothes? Well, they are strips of cloth that were used to clean up the afterbirth. Clean strips were used to wrap the baby Jesus after His birth – sort of like a mummy. Was that odd? Yep – that’s why it was a sign to the shepherds. Thirty-three years later this child would be wrapped in strips of cloth again – for His burial. The swaddling clothes were a picture of the whole purpose of this child’s life – He was born to die for the sin of all mankind. God’s Christmas gift to you was His Son – will you receive Him?
Common Christmas Misconception #6 – “Three Kings” did not visit Jesus to worship Him. The men who visited Jesus were not kings. Our English Bibles call them “wise men” or “Magi” – however literally translated from the Greek “magoi,” the word means sorcerers or magicians. The Magi were likely from Persia where they had been elevated to a priestly status. They were likely students of many histories and religions, including the Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah, and as a result of their astronomical knowledge, they came to worship the King of the Jews as they saw His star. We really don’t know exactly how many came, but this was primarily a political gesture and they brought three types of gifts (this is where the idea of “three kings” comes from) for the new King. Did they really know who they were visiting? We don’t know. Many people know “of” Jesus and some may even worship Him as a religious figure or respect Him as a great humanitarian, but the real question is, do you “know” Him, personally, as your Lord and Savior?
000magi.jpgCommon Christmas Misconception #7 – The Magi were not present at the manger scene. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they apparently told Herod the star had appeared around 2 years prior. Herod tells them to go find the “young child” – with secret intentions that he might kill this threat to his throne and they were directed to Bethlehem (about 6 miles away). Interestingly the star they had seen earlier reappeared and stood over the “house” where the “young child” was. Joseph and Mary apparently took up residence in Bethlehem after His birth and it is clear in the Greek that He was no longer a baby but a small child. From the reaction of Herod in killing all male children in Bethlehem less than 2 years of age and the Magi time recollection; He was likely around 2 years old when they worshipped Him. Don’t toss out your manger scene! Whether you place the Magi at, near, or far away from the manger doesn’t really matter. Celebrate that God used these men to show us that Jesus was sent to save all men from all nations. His final words on earth would echo this same sentiment 33 years later. Jesus – God’s gift to the whole world!

5 thoughts on “Seven Christmas Misconceptions

  1. Jonathan Charles

    It is a stretch to say that Joseph and Mary were not technically married when Jesus was born. I understand the importance of consummation in their culture, but Matthew 1 clearly affirms their marriage. I wouldn’t let a common cultural understanding of marriage trump the authority of Scripture. Also, it is a bit of a homiletical stretch to say that Jesus was born into a dysfunctional situation and can thus relate to our dysfunctional situations. He is certainly compassionate to us, but it is a mistake of trying to make application from Scripture to turn the virgin birth into some kind of family dysfunction.

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  2. Watchman

    I’m going to take issue with part of his first point. If you go back to the Old Testament and look at when the “course of Abia” to which Zacharias belonged served in the Temple, Elizabeth would have been six months pregnant (when Mary went to see her after hearing from Gabriel that she would give birth to Jesus) somewhere pretty close to March. Nine months from March is December.

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  3. Pingback: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The First Christmas | TopTenList

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