But I'm back, and enjoying a snowy evening with my writing group near B's farm, and it's absolutely wonderful.
I received this information from a Sunday School teacher -- J-- and it raises some interesting aspects of what really is a part of Christmas and how much do we really know about this holiday. I hope you enjoy this short series that I'm going to call:
How much do you really know about Christmas?
Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem:
a: on a camel
b. in a wooden cart
c. in a Volkswagen
d. with Joseph walking and Mary riding a donkey
Scroll down for the answer:
None of the above
Okay, that may have been a trick question. Granted, MAYBE she was riding on a donkey, but we don't know. Some scholars think that is very unlikely, since Joseph may have been too poor to own a donkey [let a lone a camel]
Jesus was born in:
a: a stable
b: a cave
c: the house of a relative
d: None of the above
Scroll for answer:
Answer: most likely --b-- in what amounted to a public shelter at the time.
Scripture records that Jesus was "wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger," and a manger was a feeding trough. That is where many get the image of Jesus born in a stable--which very likely could be the case. However, during that time, mangers were also frequently etched into the rock walls of caves, since many people--except perhaps the most wealthy--kept their animals in the open. So the manger could be either in a stable or in the inside wall of a cleft of rock--which is where the tradition is formed that Jesus was born in a cave.
Many scholars also believe the cave scenario because the region would be cold at night [regardless of the time of year] and a fire would be needed. Of course, a barn is the last place you'd want a fire. Other scholars believe that Jesus may have been born in a stable and laid in a manger, but more than likely the Holy Family spent most of their time in Bethlehem out in the open--particularly during an event that would have had crowds of people into the city.
It was not a warm, cozy, cute environment like the ones seen on Christmas cards [though artistically, I do like those pictures.] It was more likely that the Christ child was born into extreme poverty in an environment that was scary and amounted to little more than a public shelter.
One final question:
Christmas trees, mistletoe, ivy and holly were pagan icons. True or False?
The answer is: true.
It is no secret that many Christian traditions intermingled with pagan traditions during the festival of Saturnalia. Indeed, some of these traditions were "adopted" in order to help Christianize many pagan Celts and druids. This is one reason why the first Puritans in American did not celebrate Christmas--they viewed it as too pagan.
However, there is also a story about how Martin Luther saw a group of evergreen trees in the snow and it reminded him of the everlasting love of Christ.
So while I do know of many fellow Christians who do not have Christmas trees or mistletoe or Santa because of this, I prefer to see the tree as a fun activity that has no bearing---good or ill---upon what I believe is the True meaning of Christmas, the birth of my Savior.
Many may agree to disagree with me on this---and that's fine. St. Paul says we should not argue over debatable matters, "for who are you to criticize another's servant?" [paraphrase, NIV]. Feel free to leave comments agreeing / disagreeing---but this is not a place to get mean.
It is an opinion, granted, and just my opinion, but the Light of Christmas has nothing to do with colored bulbs that are blinking on an evergreen. But when I see the lights, it reminds me of The Light.
Coming up... Jesus was born on December 25....right?