From the Rectory
December 2007

As we begin the count down to Christmas, with all the razzmatazz which goes with it, here are some things that might help you to keep the true meaning and origins of Christmas in mind.

The Nativity - A brief history

Only two of the four gospels, Matthew and Luke, cover the nativity. The purpose of Matthew and Luke was to convince early Christians, who were Jewish, that Jesus was sent by God, as predicted in the Old Testament. But their approach and their stories are very different. Matthew's version focuses more on Joseph, and is quite stylised. Luke tells more about Mary, and is more detailed and considered to be historically reliable.

The Annunciation: An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him his wife has conceived through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus' lineage: The early Christians, who were Jewish, needed to be sure that Jesus was descended from David, as predicted in the Old Testament. Matthew describes 27 generations between David and Joseph.
Bethlehem: Mary and Joseph lived there when Jesus was born and fled about two years after his birth to Egypt. They returned to Palestine after Herod's death. When they returned they moved to Nazareth.
Place of birth: Unspecified
Visitors: The Magi were astrologers. They had observed a bright star in the sky and believed they should follow it to find Jesus. There may have been more than three wise men but they brought three gifts.
Gold: King of all metals, this was gift fit for the King of kings.
Frankincense: A sweet-smelling incense used in temple worship. It is a reminder that Jesus is to be worshipped.
Myrrh: Hints at Jesus' early death because it is a fragrant spice that was used to prepare bodies for burial.

The Annunciation: The Angel Gabriel is sent to Nazareth, in Galilee, to tell Mary that her son will be fathered by the Holy Spirit, not by her husband, Joseph.
Jesus lineage: There are 41 generations between David and Joseph.
Bethlehem: Mary and Joseph travelled 90 miles to Bethlehem just before Jesus' birth to register for a tax census. They left Bethlehem 40 days later to visit the temple in Jerusalem to register their baby. Then they returned to Nazareth.
Place of birth: A stable.
Visitors: Shepherds were Jesus' first visitors. Luke does not write about wise men. An angel came to the shepherds watching their flock, and said: 'I bring you news of great joy for the whole nation.' The angel told them they would know they had found the Messiah when they found a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
The ox and ass: You would expect to find animals in a stable. Isaiah said: 'The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's manger but Israel does not know me and the people have not regarded me.' The implication is people would be slow to know their Saviour.

In 1223 at Greccio near Assisi, St. Francis of Assisi told the Christmas story in front of a cave containing an ox, an ass and a carved wooden baby. He was determined that people should understand that God's Son was born in simple circumstances. His idea spread, which is why there are cribs in churches and children perform nativity plays.

Lys and Brian wish you all a happy and holy Christmas.

Yours for Christ's sake.