10 Things About the Christmas Story You May Have Missed
by Joe McKeever
They were not “kings” from the east and there weren’t three of them. And when they arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary and Baby Jesus were not still in the stable, but in a house, contrary to half the Christmas cards that will be arriving at your house.
And there’s no indication there were cattle in that stable or anywhere nearby. In fact, the only thing that leads us to believe Jesus was born in a stable is that Luke 2:7 tells us Mary laid the Baby in a manger, a feeding trough.
But you knew all this.
And you knew that all of this was predicted through the centuries by God’s prophets. We particularly treasure the promises of Isaiah 7:14 (“Behold a virgin shall conceive….”) and 9:6-7 (“For unto us a child is born….”), as well as Micah 5:2 (“Bethlehem…out of you shall come forth One to be Ruler over Israel…”).
And you knew that, contrary to the Christmas hymn “The First Noel,” the shepherds in Bethlehem’s fields did not “looked up and saw a star shining in the East beyond them far” (modern hymnals have revised that line to read “For all to see there was a star….”).
But, allow me to point out some aspects of this wonderful story it’s possible you might have missed. There is no particular order intended.
1. Joseph has no speaking lines.
This man who was to become the earthly father of our Lord Jesus was a man of action. He heard and he obeyed.
I recall hearing of a mother calling the school to inform the teacher that her son had a bad cold and would be unable to play Joseph in the Nativity play later that morning. It was too late to replace him, so they did the play without Joseph.
No one missed him.
2. Mary is a deep thinker.
Twice we read that she “pondered” these things. Once when Gabriel made the original announcement to her (Luke 1:29) and then when the shepherds entered the birth chamber (whatever it was, stable, etc.) to tell of the visitation of the angels (Luke 2:19).
The contrast between Mary and Joseph is fairly strong. He seems never to question a word from the Lord, but goes immediately to obey. Mary thinks it through, and even deigns to ask the angel of God how such a thing could be.
3. After the angels made their announcement to the shepherds, they did not command them to do anything.
Since the shepherds dropped everything and ran into Bethlehem to “see this thing which has come to pass,” we might have expected the angels to have instructed them to go. Instead, the angel of God did something far superior: He informed them how to recognize the Christ-child once they found Him. “This shall be a sign to you: you will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths.”
God knew those He had chosen as the welcoming committee for His Son. He knew, that even though they were lowly shepherds–a category we would call unskilled labor–they were wise enough to come to Him as soon as they knew how.
4. There is great intrigue in this story.
A great cosmic drama is taking place here. On the one hand, we see Heaven opened and angels heralding the arrival of God’s Son on earth. And on the other, hell’s forces marshal to oppose Him and if possible, to kill Him and put an early end to this redemptive mission from Heaven…
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