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Christmas truth

So Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. The little town of Bethlehem could find nowhere for this young couple. This is the story our children will act out in nativity plays across our nation. The angry innkeeper with the synthetic beard shouting “Go away” as he slams the door in the face of the young couple. (Usually ‘Mary’ has a cushion shoved up her jumper for special effects).

But it’s not what really happened. Earlier this year I had the privilege of going to Lebanon and meeting some of the most hospitable people on this planet. Middle Eastern culture would not reject a pregnant lady and expect her to stay on the streets to give birth.

Not only that, but Joseph was also a descendant of David. He would have been in a celebrity in Bethlehem, David’s town, where some distant relatives would still have lived.

When it says there was no room in the inn, the word for inn is katalyma. This is the same word that was used for the place where Jesus ate the last supper. It was the guest room of a house, not a fully functioning hotel.

If life was really that bad, Mary had time to pop down the road to stay with her relative Elizabeth, who would have happily taken care of this young mum-to-be. But she didn’t need to because Mary was well looked after. The hosts may have had no room in their guest room but they happily welcomed the pregnant mother into their own home so they could take good care of her.

When the shepherds came and saw the messiah they didn’t exclaim, “This is totally unacceptable. You cannot have the king of the Jews in this place. Please come and stay with us in our home. Our surroundings are humble but it is better than here.”

They simply worshiped him. These shepherds had a huge flock to look after. Most flocks would have been small, perhaps 20 or so sheep and the sheep were kept inside at night. This flock was so big that it had to be kept in the fields.

This can only mean one flock: the flock that was kept for the temple, lambs being reared for sacrifice. Jesus was born with these shepherds as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

It may even have been that Jesus was born in the same place where the sacrificial lambs were born, to prevent the house from becoming unclean. Interestingly the shepherds were not given detailed directions from the angels they were just told they would find him lying in a manger.

All this points to God’s sovereign plan that Jesus came to replace the sacrificial system to die once for all in our place. One day he would be led, like a lamb to the slaughter. No wonder Mary had so much to treasure in her heart. Let’s let the children and young people we work with treasure God’s great plan for them this Christmas time and may many, many more people discover this Christmas the Christ-child who was destined to die for our salvation.

If you want to read more on this, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey is a great starting point. All of Jesus’ life was weaved into the Jewish culture and understanding of the day. As we share this with the next generation let’s encourage them to discover just how many prophetic sign posts God put in place before Jesus came. You can discover more about this in our DVDs on Jewish feasts and Jewish Insights.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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