Jan, 3, 2017 · Courtney Jacob
The Christmas Story
We all know the story. At Christmas time,we often watch as children don costumes and re-enact it: Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for the census; there’s no room in the inn. Baby Jesus comes into our world and his first bed is a manger.
But how well do we really know the details? How do the details help us learn more about God and his salvation plan?
One Story - Four Perspectives
The Christmas story we read in story books and hear told at Christmas pageants and live nativity scenes is not actually one, single account from scripture. Rather, it is an account compiled from two of the four gospels. For example, Matthew is the only gospel that opens by tracing Jesus’ family history. We only hear about the angels singing to the shepherds in Luke. The gospel of Mark doesn’t even give an account of Jesus’ birth. And the gospel of John describes the event and what it accomplished for sixteen verses before finally naming Jesus Christ in verse seventeen.
This shouldn’t shock us. Eye witness accounts in any situation vary and are influenced by a number of factors like a person’s proximity to the event or their relationship with the story’s characters, Anyone reporting on an event tells the story based on what they think is important or what’s important to their audience. The same is true in the gospels.
It reminds me of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Each gospel writer had a different audience in mind and thus opened the story of God’s salvation from varied perspectives and included the pertinent facts that would be most convincing to his audience. In this simple way, the Holy Spirit made the gospel message relevant to all people, so that more people might be won for Christ.
The Bigger Picture
The traditional telling of the Christmas story compiles and combines accounts giving us a more complete and comprehensive picture of the full story.
Yet if we only read and reflect on the traditional Christmas story each year, we miss the rich nuances and perspectives each gospel account contributes to God’s whole story. By studying the accounts individually, as well as how their individual stories weave together, we gain greater understanding of and appreciation for God’s all-encompassing, grace-filled salvation plan .
So join us for our Groundwork series on Gospel Beginnings:
Gospel Beginnings: Matthew - Matthew 1
Gospel Beginnings: Mark - Mark 1:1-15
Gospel Beginnings: Luke - Luke 1
Gospel Beginnings: John - John 1
Gospel Beginnings: What Happened Next? - Luke 2:22-40
...and together we’ll anticipate Christ’s birth by discovering what else we can learn about God and his salvation plan from the richness of each gospel’s perspective on the beginning of the good news.