De-stabling the Nativity

While asses may not have resided in a Bethlehem stable, the British and American press and talk-show pundits are trying to make Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, into one. The Anglican Archbishop made comments on a BBC Radio 5 Live interview with Simon Mayo on December 21st, that the nativity only works “quite well as a legend”.

“Dr. Rowan Williams has claimed there was little evidence that the Magi even existed and there was certainly nothing to prove there were three of them or that they were kings. He said the only reference to the wise men from the East was in Matthew’s gospel and the details were very vague. Dr Williams said: “Matthew’s gospel says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that’s all we’re really told. It works quite well as legend.

The Archbishop went on to dispel other details of the Christmas story, adding that there were probably no asses or oxen in the stable. He argued that Christmas cards which showed the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus, flanked by shepherds and wise men, were misleading. As for the scenes that depicted snow falling in Bethlehem, the Archbishop said the chance of this was “very unlikely”. In a final blow to the traditional nativity story, Dr Williams concluded that Jesus was probably not born in December at all. He said: ‘Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival.’”

While blogger, Damian Thompson acknowledges, “most Biblical scholars agree with” Williams, Thompson opines,

“But really “has the Archbishop of Canterbury got nothing better to do than dismantle the Christmas story on Radio Five Live, for God’s sake? Can you imagine Pope Benedict XVI going on Simon Mayo’s show to chip away at the naive beliefs of millions of Christians?”

Oh, please don’t fret so, Mr. Thompson. The modern, lovely nativity story that has been depicted from the Renaissance period to modern-day Hallmark, is to the real Christmas story what gargoyles are to cathedrals dotting the European landscape – a drawing card for the lost, giving them a message of hope.

It is a vehicle for the real message of Christmas to be shared with those who are the walking dead, empty vessels containing a heart of stone, eyes that are blind and ears that cannot hear.

It is not the “Christians who are in need of the nativity story”, but instead, those who don’t recognize that His birth represents the gift of eternal life to those who confess that He alone is Lord. (Rom 10:1-12) A birth for our rebirth is the true message.

The issue isn’t where Christ was born, or when, if, or why the “wise men” paid him a visit. It matters little if it snowed, or if His birthplace was a stable or a cave.

The issue for those who have received the gift of faith is that Jesus Christ, fully-God, fully-man, was born over 2,000 years ago for the purpose of dying on a cross, taking the place of those who deserve eternal hell – every single human being who has ever lived. The amazing part isn’t that God came to earth to save human who humbled themselves to Him, but instead, that He saved ANY human being. When one sees the depth of depravity in this world, that is the truly humbling meaning of Christmas.

1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.”

Merry Christmas!


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