The Real Story of Christmas, Part 1

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“Do we have to hear about Jacob agaaaaaain?” Ginny’s drawn-out, high-pitched whine broadcast her dissatisfaction with this part of Genesis to the world. “I hate Jacob and his whole nasty, lying, stealing family! Can’t we hear about Christmas? PLEEEEEEASE?”

Shirlee clapped her hands to her ears in a vain attempt to block the noise as her hearing aid squealed in response.

In the sanctuary, Pastor Gardner backed away from the microphone, apologizing for the feedback. Must be a loose connection somewhere.

Overhead, the pilot on United 897 from Boston to Washington, DC apologized for the inexplicable keening screech emitted by the cabin speakers. Just a minor malfunction, he said. A flight attendant must have hit a button by accident. Nothing to worry about.

“Well,” Shirlee replied, “I was going to surprise you with the story of Christmas, but if you’re going to carry on like this, maybe I will just go back to Jacob . . .”

“No! No, please . . .”

“No more whining, then?” Ginny nodded. “Very well.” Shirlee opened her large-print Bible. “The story of Christmas it is.”

Ginny clapped her hands. John, barely able to contain his disinterest, let out a grunt. Mark, on the other hand, grinned broadly. “Great, that’s one of my favorites!”

Mark? Enjoying a Bible story? Shirlee thought that a bit odd. She knew he and John both only came to Sunday School because their parents demanded it. But, down to business.

“As I’m sure you all know, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. The story is told in two books of the Bible: Matthew and Mark.”

Mark raised his hand. “Which one do you think is more accurate, Shirlee?”

Shirlee explained that since the Bible is the perfect Word of God, they were both accurate. After all, as she loved to say, God is all-knowing and all-powerful, so if He wanted the Bible to say something else, He could change it.

Mark smiled in reply.

Creepy, thought Shirlee. He’s up to something.

“I’m going to tell the story by combining both Luke and Matthew. The story in Luke actually starts sooner than Matthew, though Matthew starts with Jesus’ genealogy, all the way at Abraham, and Luke skipped the geneaology until the third chapter.”

Jeannie (Barbara Eden) is not studied, or even mentioned, in the Bible.

“Genie-ology?” Ginny wasn’t sure what that meant.

“Jesus studied Barbara Eden,” John laughed. “I think my dad did, too!”

Shirlee tried to glare, but had to choke back a laugh. “That’s enough, John. Barbara Eden isn’t nearly old enough for ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ to be in the Bible! Genealogy is the study of one’s ancestors, tracing through family trees and such. Jesus was descended from King David, and so that’s why the genealogy is so important.”

“But Shirlee,” began Mark, “I thought Jesus was descended directly from God. Not from David. How could he be descended from a human if he was God’s son?”

Shirlee was ready for this one! “Simple. The prophecies predicted that the Messiah would be of the house of David. And his adoptive father, Joseph, was in fact of the house of David.”

Mark, stumped, turned to his own Bible. Happy to see him reading along, Shirlee continued.

Back in the days of King Herod, there was a priest named Zacharias. His wife, descended from Aaron, was named Elisabeth. They were old, and since Elisabeth was barren, they’d never had children. (Luke 1:5-8)

“Why is it the woman is always barren? Maybe the man’s just not up to par, Shirlee!”

“Why would that possibly matter to you, John?”

“Because if the man is the one who is ‘barren’, then any fertile man coming along could get the ‘barren’ wife pregnant.”

“Whoredoms! Harlotry! Adultery!” shouted Tom. Ginny quickly hushed him.

“I’m sure that’s true, John, but the Bible would say if the man weren’t able to father a child.”

“Yet it never does, Shirlee.” This time, Shirlee was quite capable of glaring. “Hey, I’m just saying . . .” John’s voice trailed off.

Zacharias was doing his priestly duties one day, and an angel of the Lord appeared by the altar and told him that Elisabeth would bear a son, to be named John, who would be filled with the Holy Ghost. Zecharias, not convinced by the terrifying angel before him, asked for a sign. (Luke 1:8-18)

Ginny wondered what was wrong with these people. “They always want a sign. An angel appears, and he still wants a sign!”

“Like Elisabeth throwing up and being cranky wouldn’t be sign enough,” added John.

Mark continued his furious reading.

Shirlee didn’t respond, but turned back to her book.

The angel told Zacharias that he would be unable to speak until the baby was born. And he couldn’t! (Luke 1:19-22)

Soon after, Elisabeth got pregnant. And six months into her pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to visit Mary. He told her that she was highly favored, and blessed among women. Mary thought that an odd greeting. (Luke 1:24-29)

The angel explained that Mary had found favor with God, and would have a son who she would name Jesus; and that Jesus would be great, and called the Son of the Highest, and that God would give Him the throne of David, and that Jesus would reign over the house of Jacob (that is, Israel) forever and ever. (Luke 1:30-33)

“So that makes Jesus king, right Shirlee?”

“That it does, Mark!” Shirlee was pleased that Mark was paying attention.

“So . . . why didn’t the angel tell Mary that Jesus would have to die and come back and then go away for a couple thousand years or more, and that He wouldn’t really come into that ‘kingship’ until the world ended?”

Shirlee thought a moment. “Don’t you think that would be a bit much to tell a young woman?”

“But you always said the truth is most important,” John protested. “Why wouldn’t the angel tell Mary the truth?”

“Because Jesus was just supposed to be an earthly king, I bet,” crowed a triumphant Mark. “He was going to liberate the Jews from the Romans and set up a kingdom!”

“Mark, how many earthly kings do you know who rule forever?” Shirlee was glad she’d read this and prepared for Mark’s typical queries. “List them. How many have there been?”

“None.”

“Yet the angel said Jesus would rule forever. Sounds pretty special to me.”

Mary asked the angel how it could be she’d get pregnant, since she’d never been with a man. The angel explained that the Holy Ghost would come upon her, so the ‘holy thing’ to be born of her should be called the Son of God. And as a sign, check out your old cousin Elisabeth, who is pregnant and in her sixth month! (Luke 1:34-37)

“That story sounds awfully familiar,” said Mark, pulling out a piece of paper.

What do you think was on Mark’s paper? Make your selection in the poll below, then find out the answer in Part 2!

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