The 12 Myths of Christmas #12


No, actually, it’s not. Let’s get our priorities straight in the new year.

Sure, Christmas is the time when many Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, and it’s of course, a very festive event. 

Despite all the obstacles Mary and Joseph had to overcome in bringing the Son of God into the world—facing misunderstanding and derision, traveling to Bethlehem, being homeless during Jesus’ birth, conversely being honored by shepherds and wise men alike, and lastly being chased by Herod—Christmas is a great part of the story of Jesus.

So why did God not overtly state the exact date of the birth of Jesus? He definitely could have. He did elsewhere in the Bible, or at least told us the month and day in the Jewish calendar. There must, therefore, be a good reason.

Consider that God loves when His people seek Him, and His plans. Proverbs 25:2 explains it this way:

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.

But like we explored in “The 12 Myths of Christmas #1”, careful study will reveal the month of Jesus’ birth as possibly being in September, but it takes some digging to get there. When you do, you relish an ah-ha moment.

Consider also that Christmas may not be the most important day of the year because the incident itself was no miracle. 

The conception of Jesus was a supernatural miracle, granted, but His lowly birth, out of doors or in a place where sheep were swaddled and not even in an “upper room” as we looked at in “The 12 Myths of Christmas #4” was nothing special. 

His birth was just done the regular way. EVERY birth is a mini miracle, yes, but this one was like all the others.

But the MOST important day of the calendar year, has to be Resurrection Day. That was when the real miracle occurred—when Jesus rose from the dead, and so therefore we will all too, one day. 

In John 11 Jesus explains it this way:

 21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” 23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her. 24 Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.”

Since obviously, everyone’s body dies, Jesus is speaking of something other than physical death. He teaches here of spiritual death. 

Easter is greatly celebrated around the world, and despite the modern calendar differences between the Eastern and Western church traditions, both agree that Easter happens after the Jewish Passover. 

Therefore, for people that follow after Jesus, Easter is the most meaningful day of the year. Being born is wonderful but being born AGAIN with the gift of eternal life (in other words—born twice)—that’s ASTONISHING! 

John 3:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

This Christmas and new year let’s celebrate the amazing, symbolic, astonishing message that the Messiah—the Son of God—was born for us. He died for us. He rose again, so that we could too. Make sure you have been Twice BORN!

The 12 Myths of Christmas #11


No. No. Wrong again, for true “XMAS” users anyway. 

Lots of Christians start feeling like martyrs when Christmas gets abbreviated, 
believing this is just another way for modern, secular society to disavow our faith. But not 
exactly. Instead, 
they’re (consciously or unconsciously) appropriating a usage that’s 
nearly as old as the faith itself. 

In the early days of the Church, during times of persecution as a matter of fact, those first Christians took Jesus’ suggestion to Peter, and created a secret symbol out of it. “I will make you fishers of men.”

Mark 1:17 says,

16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.

18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

Half of Jesus’ twelve disciples had been fishermen. As the early church told the world about the resurrected Messiah, it is said they used the symbol of the fish as a communication logo. 

The word, “fish” in Greek, “ichthus”, is used at least twenty times in the New Testament. The Greek letters for the word fish make an acronym of the Christian creed: ησοῦς Χρῑστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ. This spells Jesus – Christ – God’s – Son – Savior. 

When Christians met with a stranger, it is said they would draw one half of an arch—half of a fish symbol in the sand. If the stranger drew the other half to complete the symbol, then they knew they met with a fellow believer. Thus, for a time they escaped religious persecution.

The first letter in the Greek word for “Christ” is “chi.” And in the Roman alphabet, chi is represented by the symbol “X”. So guess what? Xmas is an entirely justifiable replacement for Christ—mas, and it goes back a long, long way. The “mas” stood for “mass” which meant “feast” or “festival”. The meaning of the word “Christmas” means “Christ Festival”. 

So, people who use XMAS aren’t demeaning Christ. We Xians shouldn’t get 
so upset about it.

So, when someone invites you to attend their school or church’s Christmas program, feel free to point out the errors of their wise men and Victorian-style angels and the maudlin carols in the background. Or, perhaps not, Ebenezer. Don’t be a scrouge. But when it comes to the word “XMAS” feel free to explain the secret meaning used 2000 years ago and even now.

This Christmas,  just remember that like many of the tightly held traditions of our faith, not all of them are quite as biblical or unbiblical as we think. Instead let’s celebrate the amazing, symbolic, astonishing message that the Messiah—the Son of God—was born for us. Merry Xmas!

The 12 Myths of Christmas #10


Contrary to popular opinion, the calendar does not start from the 
birth of Jesus, but 
was created by Julius Caesar. It is commonly thought that BC stands for “before Christ” and AD stands for “after death.”

This is only half correct. How could the year 1 BC have been “before Christ” and 1 AD been “after death”? AD actually stands for the Latin phrase “anno domini” which means “in the year of our Lord.” 

The BC / AD dating system is not taught in the Bible. It actually was not fully implemented and accepted until several centuries after Jesus’ death.

One source describes it like this:

Just like all things human, calendars as well evolve. Our calendrical roots begin with the old Roman calendar, following down the line to the somewhat newer Julian calendar (brought to fruition by a ruler of ancient Rome, Julius Caesar).

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar (named after himself), which is still the calendar of choice to date. 


It is interesting to note that some think the purpose of the BC / AD dating system was to make the birth of Jesus Christ the dividing point of world history. However, scholars later discovered that Jesus was actually born in around 4-6 BC, not 1 AD. 

One speaks in error, then, to say that our very calendar proves that Jesus is God. Wrong again, though it is a lucky coincidence—if you believe in luck. Frankly, I agree with Albert Einstein who famously has been quoted saying, “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.”

Today, the abbreviations BCE (Before common Era) and CE are tied to BC and AD, but they’re not overtly tied to Christianity. Many scholars have been using these abbreviations since the early 1700s.

Despite the influx of the secular world, the push towards BCE has not been universally accepted. Even though it has been in the mainstream media since the 1980s, BC is still more widely used as its counterpart has received pushback.

But this is not the crucial issue. The birth, death, and resurrection of Christ are the turning points in world history, whether a secular Roman, Julian, or Gregorian calendar shows it or not. Our times are in God’s hands.

Psalm 31:15 says:

My times are in thy hand: Deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

And again, in Galatians 4, Paul sums up the entire Christmas story:

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

This Christmas, when we look to the next calendar year, let us not be insufferably wrong about our proof for the existence of God based on man-made calendars. 

Instead, let’s rejoice in the amazing, miraculous, astonishing Messiah—the King of kings—who was born for us in the “fullness of time” to make us heirs. The Son of God came to earth to make men sons of God.

The 12 Myths of Christmas #9


“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is still one of the most famous lines in American journalism, which sadly in these days has become more than corrupted. 

Taken from an editorial by Francis Church entitled “Is There a Santa Claus?”, this line which appeared in The Sun on September 21, 1897, has been quoted every year since. And while Francis Church wrote many lovely sentiments in his famous article, he also inserted some dangerous errors in his logic. 

This excerpt from the editorial shows some logical truth:

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

But sadly, he misses the mark by at least half, and indeed seems to contradict his own first premise by telling the child this:

         Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

None of these four things he mentions are exclusively “real and abiding”, though they sound good in a sentimental sort of way. Faith, for instance, is only as “real and abiding” as the OBJECT of that faith. Faith, and the amount of faith is nothing. The object of even a little faith is everything.

Poetry as a concept is only as abiding as the writings of mankind. Much of that has been lost in the sands of time.

Love is contingent upon the love giver, and with many humans their love dies. Ah. But there might be One, namely God himself, who is said to “BE LOVE.” 

If that is the case, and I believe it to be true, then love may be the only thing in his list that is “real and abiding” as long as it comes from the true love giver—God. For a Christ-follower who believes the Bible is true, it says “God is Love.”

1 John 4:7-12

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

Francis Church got that one right, but as for romance? Romance is defined by Webster’s as, “a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural.” 

Again, as a Christ-follower who believes the Bible is true, this one may also be “real and abiding”. Romance as a tale, therefore, if the tale points to the TRUE MYTH, as C. S. Lewis describes it, may also be “real and abiding”.

Lewis writes about this in his letter to Arthur Greeves:

Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths. (October 18, 1931)

Francis Church may have gotten “romance” correct too, in his letter to Virginia, if it refers to the “true myth” as Lewis defines it. 

As far, then, as Francis Church’s four proofs to a little girl goes, he is not telling the truth. 

And neither is the world as it substitutes Santa Clause for truth.

However, wait. There was a real, living man based on the legend. That man was also a Christ-follower who believed the Bible is true. That man was Nicholas of Myra. 

Though he’s one of the most popular saints in the 
Greek and Latin churches, his existence isn’t attested by any historical 
document. All we can say is that he was PROBABLY the bishop of Myra (near modern Finike, Turkey) sometime in the 300s.

Supposedly, Nicholas was wealthy. In the most famous story about his life, he secretly threw bags of gold through the windows of three girls about to be forced into lives of prostitution, to provide a proper dowry for them.

Nicholas was chosen by the people of Myra to be their bishop. But when Diocletian and Maximian began their persecutions of Christians, they threw Nicholas in prison.

When Constantine became emperor, Nicholas 
was released with countless others and 
returned to his preaching.The people revered his memory. Some think he has been represented by Medieval artists 
more frequently than any nearly any other saint.

Sadly, somewhere along the line with his gold-
giving fame, people began giving presents in Nicholas’ name 
on his feast day. When the Reformation came along, Martin Luther, for example, replaced this 
bearer of gifts with the Christ Child, or, in German, 
Christkindl. Over the years, that became repronounced 
Kriss Kringle, now considered another 
name for Santa Claus.

I believe Gaye Frances Willard got it right in her painting, “Every Knee Shall Bow” as seen below, where Santa Clause in his red suit, kneels before the manger of Jesus. 

Gaye Frances Willard describes the meaning behind her painting on her website:

Christ entered our humanness with all of its brokenness, pain & sin, knowing the price He would pay for our redemption. But His glory lit a Bethlehem sky and gave angels a song on the night of His birth. It is in glory that He will return. When He does, every eye will see Him & every knee will bow. “So that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow.” (Philippians 2:10)

This Christmas, when we see the red-suited santas and think of Francis Church’s logical fallacies that led to the deception of children everywhere, let’s not mix up truth with myth. Let’s look for the “True Myth” such as changed atheist C. S. Lewis into a Christ-follower.

And let’s remember that Christ will return. And like the real Nicholas of Myra (Santa Claus), imprisoned for following Jesus, may every knee, yours and mine, bow for the amazing, miraculous, astonishing Messiah—the King of kings—who was born for us.


The 12 Myths of Christmas #8


Our nativity sets are WRONG AGAIN! Unless, of course, they look like Liz Lemon Swindle’s painting, “The Holy Men”, as shown here. Or perhaps like I do, you remove the Magi figurines in your Fontanini Nativity set to the other side of the living room to signify that they are on their way to Bethlehem.

The two, three, twelve or up to seventy Magi came way later. They must have arrived in Bethlehem up to two years after the birth of Jesus. How do we know? Two passages in Matthew indicate this truth.

Matthew 2:9-12:

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

By this time, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were in a “house” and not where the manger was. 

Also, the word translated from the Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek this way: 

paidíon – properly, a child under training; the diminutive form of 3816/país (“child”).  3813 /paidíon (“a little child in training”) implies a younger child (perhaps seven years old or younger). 


Also, Matthew 2:16-18:

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

18 A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
and she refused to be consoled,
because they were no more.

In his rage, Herod carried out infanticide to all the children in Bethlehem, two years and under. Such an abominable rage was committed by a narcissist of the worst kind. But two interesting things come of this slaughter for us to ponder. 

First, if Satan controlled Herod, it was Satan himself that didn’t see the incarnation coming in such a way—a baby, born in such humble means. And Satan must not have known about the Magi coming. God tricked Satan.

Secondly, Joseph was given a dream from God and acted on it immediately. That takes decisiveness and great faith. What a role model for us. Look closely at what the Bible says in Matthew 2: 13-15:

13 After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.”14 So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called My Son. 

When have you ever had a dream and acted on it immediately? I haven’t. I turn over and go back to sleep.This was Joseph’s second dream from God. He was beginning to hear God’s voice by now. And what about God’s enemy, Satan? God tricked Satan once again. The young child, Jesus, was saved.

This Christmas, when we read the words of God, written in His Book, may we also “Get Up” even if it’s in the middle of the night and do what He says in his Word. 

And let’s remember the Magi “with exceeding great joy” saw their guiding star again that led them to the young Child-King. And like them may we Find the amazing, miraculous, astonishing Messiah—the King of kings—who was born for us. And like the Joseph, hear His voice.

“The Holy Men”

The 12 Myths of Christmas #7


No. Not necessarily. But they were kingly. So who were they? They are called wise men, or Magi—the same word from which we get our word “magician”.

We see them in the Old Testament held in positions of authority in the court of the Babylonian 
king, Nebuchadnezzar. The Magi honored Daniel, a Jewish councilor, because he had saved the lives of the 
Magi of Daniel’s day, centuries before the time of Christ. Do you remember the story?

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream sent to 
him from God, but he could not remember the dream except that it terrified him. He gathered his Magi together and demanded to tell him his dream that he had forgotten, and also the meaning, or he would have them all killed. Of course, no one could do such a thing, and all the Magi, including Daniel, knew they would be killed.

The king was just about to arrest the Magi to put them to death, when Daniel asked for one more day. That night, after much prayer, God revealed the dream to Daniel. The next day he came before the king with the dream and its meaning.

Daniel 2:

27 Daniel answered the king: “No wise man, medium, diviner-priest, or astrologer is able to make known to the king the mystery he asked about. 28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has let King Nebuchadnezzar know what will happen in the last days.

Daniel told the king his dream (which predicted who would rule after him) and from then on, the king and the Magi revered Daniel and his 
God-given wisdom. 

Remaining polytheists, they still revered Danial’s God as preeminent, but no doubt they still would have had copies of Daniel’s book even to Jesus’ day. They would have known of the 

Daniel 9:24-26

24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

The Magi were astrologers and studied the stars. At the time of the appearance of the Star, 
descendants of Nebuchadnezzar’s Magi knew they were within a lifetime of Daniel’s prophecy coming to pass.

While no one knows for certain how the Magi knew a King of the Jews would be born in Israel, what’s most important is that they went to see Him. No, more than that, they came ready to worship Him as they told Herod.

 Matthew 2:12 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.

This Christmas, when we see the stars in the night sky, let’s remember the Magi traveling from the east to find the amazing, miraculous, astonishing Messiah—the King of kings—who was born for us. And like the Magi, let’s find Him and follow.

The 12 Myths of Christmas #6


No. Not three, necessarily. The Bible simply does not say. Two or more, for sure since it says wise men—plural. 

Here’s what Matthew 2 says:

2 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

How ever many there were, certainly made a stir in Jerusalem. It made Herod and “all Jerusalem” troubled. They must have made quite an entrance. 

The idea of three wisemen, or MAGI, comes from the truth that they brought three types of gifts. Matthew 2:11 says:

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

But nowhere does the Bible say there were THREE travelers. Some scholars say tradition puts the number at twelve. There undoubtedly could have been more like seventy. 

Have you read this prophesy from Isaiah?

Isaiah 60:

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.

Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.

The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.

What does this passage mean? It SEEMS to be about Israel gaining light. It SEEMS to say Gentiles and kings shall come to the light of Israel. It speaks of multitudes of camels from THREE places bringing gold and frankincense. 

Is there a connection between this passage and the story in Matthew of the wise men? It looks like it. But that’s the thing about prophesies. They’re enigmatic and mysterious. Could there have been multitudes of camels bearing many wise men? Or did they ride horses or chariots? 

Actually, Matthew does not even mention camels. Another assumption since they came from the east, is that they rode camels—an appropriate beast of burden for the time and place, but oddly, not really mentioned.

What we DO know is the wise men brought three types of gifts listed in the text—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These had definite symbolic meanings as well as practical value. Gold was a gift for a king. Frankincense was an incense used by priests for sacrifice. It’s two-fold symbol harkens to a priest and a sacrifice. Both of which Jesus was born to be.

Myrrh was an odd gift for a baby. Matthew 27:34 refers to it as “gall.” Myrrh comes as sap from a small bushy tree cultivated in ancient times in the Arabian Peninsula. It was used raw or crushed and mixed with oil to make a perfume. It was also used medicinally to reduce swelling and stop pain and was used in the embalming process. Myrrh symbolizes suffering, bitterness, and death. Expensive, yes. Symbolic of what was to happen to Jesus, yes.

This Christmas, let’s look beyond the three men, to their three symbolic gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, that all foretold the amazing, symbolic, astonishing message that the Messiah—the Son of God—was born for us.

The 12 Myths of Christmas #5


Aren’t all babies swaddled? Isn’t this just an unimportant detail? Of course Mary would swaddle her baby! Some would argue the operative word in the verse below is “manger”. But take another look.

Luke 2:

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

“City of David” and “manger” were the WHERE. “Messiah—or Christ—the Lord” was the WHO. “This day” was the WHEN. “Great joy to all people” was the WHY. To sum up what the angel said is this: “The Messiah was born in Bethlehem today. YAY!”

There only remains the WHAT.

The swaddling clothes. That was the WHAT. And it is the most important detail, indeed, the operative word in this passage. 

I doubt if the shepherds knew what this meant at all at first. They knew it meant SOMETHING, but they had to go see it to understand it. 

And when they found Him, I wonder if they still understood everything. It is said that hindsight is 20/20. Could they have seen the baby wrapped in strips of cloth and understood that this baby was swaddled in the very same way that they, the Levitical Shepherds, swaddled their own newborn lambs as they preserved them for Temple worship? Did Mary use the shepherds own lamb cloths?

And could they have understood WHAT they were observing? Read on in Luke 2:

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

If “all that heard it wondered,” did they shepherds not even know the symbolism? It appears they did not. 

We, in our 20/20 hindsight, see the rich symbolism of The Lamb of God wrapped in a lamb’s swaddling clothes. One day Jesus would be the last sacrifice. He was spotless, and He died instead to us to pay for our sin.

Did the shepherds understand that, symbolically, The Bread of Life was lying in a feeding trough, or manger, ready to feed His sheep with His own body one day? 

And could the shepherds have seen the rich symbolic parallel of strips of cloth that would one day encircle His broken body after He died? Wrapped at His birth. Wrapped at His death. Free of them at His resurrection. Who could have known? 

I think they knew SOMETHING huge had happened in the very fact that the angels appeared to them. That the Messiah news was given to them FIRST. That their job was to tell EVERYBODY. Even if they didn’t fully comprehend the import of everything they heard and saw, they and everyone they told “wondered.”

Ah. But Mary treasured it all in her heart. She did not fully see the WHAT either, no doubt. But she would one day. 

The shepherds too, if they lived thirty-three years more, would have heard how Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem as they had witnessed, was crucified, wrapped in strips of cloth, and then rose again leaving the strips of cloth in place—like a cocoon. It was no doubt then THEN they fully understood everything.

When all those years later they would have heard that John stepped into Jesus’ empty tomb, it was just the sight of the cloths which caused him to believe. He believed that Jesus rose from the dead. He did not believe someone unwrapped His dead body. He must had seen a difference in the way they lay. 

John speaks of himself as “that other disciple,” when he and Peter first discovered the burial cloths.

John 20:

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

So, swaddling clothes were a mere detail, just like every baby? No. The difference was in the details. The symbolism. The mystery.

This Christmas, in our 20/20 hindsight, let’s wonder at the wisdom of God as he planted clues for the shepherds to follow the one true Messiah—Jesus. Like the shepherds, let’s tell everybody what we have seen and heard.

And let’s glory in the grace that God told this news first to just regular folks like you and me and the shepherds, the amazing, symbolic, astonishing message that the Messiah—the Son of God—was born in the City of David and wrapped in a lamb’s swaddling clothes.

The 12 Myths of Christmas #4


Wait! That’s a myth? I love barns! Barns have history! But we again look to the exact wording. The Bible does not mention a stable, a barn, a cave, or any other enclosure. One just assumes if there is a manger, it would be in an enclosure for animals. Right? Well, I don’t know. 

Let’s read EXACTLY what the text DOES say in Luke 2:

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

One type of building is mentioned. The one that had no room for them—the inn. The word here for “inn” is the same word used for the “upper room” that Jesus used for the Last Supper. Usually, it is thought to be a spare room in the house of a family member. But with a census being taken, and by law citizens had to return to their own cities to register, Bethlehem must have been crowded.

Some say they could have stayed in the “lower room” shared with the animals. Possibly. Some conjecture they would have stayed in a cave, perhaps with animals, because the region is full of caves. 

The Church of the Nativity claims to be constructed on the very spot—a cave—where Jesus was born. But I think not. First, it was built by Constantine 300 years after Christ was born. That’s a long gap with room for error. 

Then, Constantine supposedly had built it on a site where the Roman emperor Hadrian was said to have planted a grove and worshiped Adonis, the lover of Aphrodite on that same location, perhaps to get rid of the Jesus story altogether. I find it more likely that Constantine built his Church of the Nativity on that site to squelch the Roman gods. 

What we do know is that the Old Testament speaks of Bethlehem and maybe gives a clue.

Micah 5:

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Genesis 35:

19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.21 And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.

One theory is that Joseph and Mary may have sought shelter in the Tower of Edar, or the Tower of the Flock. While it is not there today, it was a watchtower where specially trained shepherds would raise perfect lambs intended for sacrifice. It was just north of Bethlehem on the way towards Jerusalem.

They could have sheltered there, in the ceremonially clean Tower of the Flock where cloths for binding sheep were plentiful—swaddling clothes. The area was cleaned twice daily. It was a protected place. A manger, or feeding trough, would have been there as well. All that we REALLY know is that the only landmark was a manger. Was it inside or outside? One thing is sure. The shepherds knew where to look.

There is one more possible clue to suggest that Jesus was born in the Tower of the Flock from Micah 4:

And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.

Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail.

10 Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field… 

What if this passage tells of the REAL location of where Jesus was born? Fitting, wouldn’t you say, that the Lamb of God would be born where sacrificial lambs were born. Interesting. We will know one day.

This Christmas, let’s focus on what the Bible DOES say and stick to that. The point is look to what the Bible says, and not jump to conclusions about what it does NOT say. It does not say barn. I believe God left clues. He loves a good mystery. He loves it when his children follow His clues.

Let’s be true readers of the Word and not miss the amazing, miraculous, astonishing message that somewhere in Bethlehem, the Messiah—the Son of God—was born.

The 12 Myths of Christmas #3


Are the Christmas cards wrong again? I do not know. I wasn’t there. But I would say they are. When one reads carefully with a clear head, the scriptures, and a blank canvas in front of you, I don’t see a donkey. The Bible simply does not say that Mary rode a donkey.

Here’s what it DOES say In Luke 2:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

That’s it! Nothing else. Aside from legends and writings of doubtful origin, the only other verse in the Bible that would support the idea of a donkey MIGHT be this one:

Zachariah 9:9

        Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
        Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
        Behold, your king is coming to you,
        a righteous one bringing salvation.
        He is lowly, riding on a donkey—
        on a colt, the foal of a donkey.[b

However wonderful the symbolism is here, let’s not forget that as a prophecy, this actually did come to pass when Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Why then does it appear at the nativity? Actually, it doesn’t. Did Mary ride a donkey to Bethlehem? No one knows.

I’ve always been taught to beware of traditions. Whereas they are charming in families and are the stuff legends are made of, TRUTH trumps tradition. 

Especially when raising our children, we had decided early on not to tell as TRUTH the tales of fairies and gnomes and personages that slide down chimneys in the middle of the night. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” (Rom.3:4) Let fantasy point to truth. That’s the point of fantasy. But just because we don’t know every detail does not make something true or false. In this case, we just don’t know.

A pragmatic view of Mary in her pregnancy riding a donkey over hilly paths seems unwise if not ridiculous. Yes, Mary was young and healthy. Pregnant women work hard, sometimes all the way up to delivery day. I did, with my two pregnancies, but when I was two months pregnant with my first, I fell from a horse. It was more a sliding off, really. I was not hurt. Nevertheless, I thought it time to stop riding. Mary and Joseph were well aware of their precious cargo. Why would they risk it?

What are the other possibilities, then, for a carpenter and his pregnant fiancé to travel the up-to eighty or ninety miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem? Hired wagon or conveyance? Donkey cart? Walking? 

Actually, walking in moderation is recommended for pregnant women. It helps build strength, relieve back pain, and helps with general constitution. Going slowly, they could have walked it in two to three weeks. If Jesus was born at the end of September during the Feast of Tabernacles, as Myth #1 suggests, perhaps Joseph carried their tent or “tabernacle” on his back. Or maybe on his donkey. I guess we’ll never know this side of heaven.

So what’s the point of Bethlehem? Why did they have to go there to deliver the son of God, with or without a donkey? To fulfill the prophecy:

Micah 5:2

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Joseph was from the royal line of David and so needed to go to Bethlehem to pay a new tax. David, the shepherd-king, was born there. Jesus, the lamb of God, was born there too. The point is, they got there somehow.

This Christmas, let’s focus on what the Bible DOES say and stick to that. Let’s be true readers of the Word, not adding fantasy, but focusing on the truth. The point is not HOW they got there, but that they went, obeying God and government. And in so doing, changed the world.