Teaching: The REAL Christmas Story – Part Two

Every Sunday I provide videos and valuable links to the Truth or Tradition teachings. We’ve been following the Truth or Tradition teachings for many years now and they have truly blessed our family. We have found peace and happiness through our beliefs and we walk confidently for God. My hope, by passing on this information to you, is that what you find here, or on the Truth or Tradition website, will guide you to a better, more blessed and abundant life.

If you would like to read my views on religion and how we got started with the ministry, you can read this.

Let’s get started:

Common Features of an Eastern Life

There are a few things about ordinary houses and ordinary life in first century Palestine that we must know in order to understand the birth of Jesus. One is that it was quite common for houses in the Middle East to have a guest room where guests, and even strangers, could stay. Showing hospitality to strangers has always been a huge part of Eastern life, and is written about in the Bible and in many books on the customs of the Bible. Several biblical records show strangers being given hospitality, including the record of Lot (Gen. 19:1-4), the man in Gibeah (Judg. 19:19-21), and the Shunamite woman, who showed hospitality to Elisha by building a guest room just for him (2 Kings 4:10). Giving hospitality is a command for Christian leaders as well (1 Tim. 3:2).

Even poor people could have a guest room because it did not have to be furnished or have an adjoining bathroom and shower. People did not generally sleep on beds, but traveled with their own blankets that they slept on at night, so sleeping arrangements were no problem. Tables and chairs were not used in the common homes of first century Palestinians, and the bathroom was a pot, or a place outside. So the average guest room was simply a small, empty room, offering shelter and a place of safety. The guest room provided privacy for the guests as well as the family, because one-room homes were common. Our modern houses with many rooms were simply not the norm in a village of the first century. Quite often a family lived in a one-room house, in which all family activities occurred. They pulled their bedrolls out at night and slept on the floor, and simply rolled them up again in the morning.

Another thing we must understand about houses in the East is that it was common for people to bring their animals (the family donkey or a couple of milk goats, for example) into them at night. Such animals were very valuable, and the people brought them into the home at night to keep them from being stolen and to protect them from harm. Of course, if the family were shepherds or herdsmen, they would not bring the whole flock or herd into the house, but would have a family member or hired guard watch them in the field.

It was a common practice to raise the floor of the part of the house where the family lived, and keep the animals in an area that was a little lower. [10] Knowing this helps us understand Luke 2:6 and also where that idea that Jesus was born in a stable came from. Jesus was laid in a manger, which is an open trough, box, or bin, where the animal food was placed so the animals could feed easily. In Western society, mangers are in barns or stables, so if Jesus was laid in a manger it made sense he was born in a stable. However, in Eastern society, where the animals grazed outside during the day and were brought into the house at night, the manger was in the house. Thus when the Bible says that Jesus was laid in a manger “because” there was no space in the guest room, any Easterner would understand perfectly that the guest room was full so Jesus was born in the main part of the house where the family and animals were, and then safely placed in the manger, which would have been filled with clean hay or straw and would have been the perfect size for him. This was not to demean him in any way, but to care for him. The protective walls of the manger kept him safely guarded and away from busy feet and a bustling household, as well as warm and protected from any drafts or cold air in the home.

Another thing that helps us understand the Christmas story is understanding Eastern hospitality. In the East, guests were given special treatment of all kinds, including behavior that seems very extreme to us. For example, in the record of Lot and the two strangers, Lot would have handed over his own daughters to the mob before surrendering his guests (Gen. 19:8). Similarly, the people with whom Joseph and Mary stayed would never displace their guests from the guest room, but instead would inconvenience themselves, graciously bringing the couple into their living space.

Another thing we need to know is that Mary and Joseph would not have been alone when Jesus was born. The women of the household, along with the women of the family staying in the guestroom, most likely the village midwife, and perhaps even wise and experienced women from the neighborhood, would have been present, and would have shooed Joseph and the rest of the men out of the house some time during Mary’s labor (actually, the men would have graciously left on their own, which was also standard procedure in that culture). The husband and any sons (along with Joseph), would have left their own house, spending their late evening and night hours with other families or just resting out under the stars, so that Mary would have the privacy she needed during the birth of Jesus. [11] Of course they would be allowed back in the house after the baby was born and there had been adequate time to get things in the house back in proper order and make sure Jesus and Mary were comfortable.

Baby Jesus would have been born in normal circumstances, with Mary being helped and cared for by the women around her. Although the Bible does not mention that there was a midwife and other women present with Mary, it would be quite unthinkable that they would not be there to help. No details of the birth would be given in the Bible because births were a “normal” part of life, and no first-century reader in Palestine would expect anything different than what usually happens with a village birth. In fact, if the women of the household had not been there to help, that would have been so unusual (and seemingly coldhearted) that it would probably be written about in the Bible. Also, the shepherds who came to see Jesus knew that he was the promised Messiah. When they found Joseph, Mary, and their Savior, if they in any way felt that he was not being treated well, they would have been scandalized and outraged, and immediately taken them home to their own houses. The fact that they did no such thing, but rather left the new family where they were and went to tell the good news to the whole area, indicates they felt Joseph, Mary, and the baby were being well cared for. [For further study read Family Life in the Bible.]

The Christmas Story

So we see that the way the birth of Jesus actually happened is considerably different than what is commonly taught. It is not that Bethlehem was full of cold-hearted townspeople who would not take special care of a young woman about to have her first child.

Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem at least a few days before Mary gave birth, and were taken in by one of the local homes, most likely that of a relative. The host family already had guests in the kataluma, the guest room, so there was no space (topos) for them there. Therefore, the homeowners graciously made room for Joseph and Mary in their own living quarters, treating them like family. When Mary went into labor, the men left their own home to give her privacy, and the women of the household, likely along with the village midwife, came to Mary’s side for help and support. Shortly after Mary gave birth to our Lord and Savior late in the evening (after sunset) or at night, Joseph and the men would have been called back into the house to see the new baby boy, and there would have been much jubilation and revelry, which was always a traditional part of the birth of a baby boy, particularly if it was a first child. [12]

Not too long after Jesus was born, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes, dedicated to God, and placed in a perfect spot, the manger in the family home, which would have been cleaned and made up with fresh straw. No doubt the news soon spread around the village that a baby boy had been born (the music and shouting would have helped that happen), and that both the mother and baby were doing well, but soon there was to be news of a different kind. Shepherds showed up from a nearby field and told the village that a great light had shined around them, that they had seen an army of angels on the hillsides, and that an angel had told them that this baby was no ordinary baby, but the Messiah, the Savior. Their report caused great wonder all over the region, and resulted in glory and praise to God.

Thus the story of the birth of Christ reveals something that demonstrates the true spirit of Christmas: people opening their homes and their hearts, joyfully giving to others in need, and helping where they can.

Read the full article here. (And it’s worth the read!!)

If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about God’s wonderful message, please visit the Truth or Tradition website. You can also keep track of the ministry through their Facebook page.

Thank you for visiting and God bless.

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One thought on “Teaching: The REAL Christmas Story – Part Two

  1. Good article.

    I find it interesting that for so long, people have been repeating what appears to be inaccurate information-and not just about Jesus and his birth.

    I’ll definitely be reading more articles from Truth or Tradition.

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