Christmas Untangled

Christmas Untangled

The icons and nativity scenes for Christmas that probably all of us display this time of year weave together two biblical narratives with other sources into a coherent whole.  An interesting activity that you can do on your own or with a group of students is to untangle the stories and look at them individually. Doing so provides an opportunity to both enrich our knowledge and appreciation of the story itself, but also hones our skills at reading the Bible and other sources.

This activity is not too difficult as there are just two Nativity stories in scripture and neither of them is too difficult or to long.  I’ll take you through the steps and in parentheses offer answers to questions that you might want to pose to others

Read Matthew 1:18-2:12 

Who is the main actor in this passage? (Joseph. Scholars wonder if the Matthew text is Joseph’s version of events, handed down through his family to the followers of Christ. No way to know with certainty, but it is an interesting thought.).

What is Joseph concerned about? (Always doing the proper thing for Mary and the newborn Jesus. Notice how Joseph is described in Matthew, “a righteous man”).

Who are the special visitors in Matthew?  (The Wise Men. They see the star and are led to search out a new king of Israel and find Jesus. This text is unclear that the Wise Men found Jesus as a baby; they find a child.)

Now do the same with Luke 2:1-19

After reading the passage:

Who is the main actor in this passage? (Mary. Scholars wonder if the Lucan text is Mary’s version of events, handed down by her to the followers of Christ.  One piece of evidence is verse 19, where Mary treasures all these things in her heart. Who else would have known what Mary held in her heart to communicate that to others?)

Who are the special visitors? (Shepherds, who are told by angels to find a newborn lying in a manger. This is the Messiah).

After reading the two, notice how we compress all of this into one event. Our icons and nativity scenes compress the stories into one coherent story for us to contemplate and celebrate.


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