Last night I finished a 2-part Bible study on the REAL story of Christmas. By REAL, I mean the way the Bible actually tells it–and not the way tradition relays it.

TRADITION TELLS US that Joseph puts Mary on the back of a donkey (she is 8+ months pregnant by the way) and rides her 70 miles straight south from Nazareth to Bethlehem. When they arrive on Christmas Eve (December 24), they find all the hotels booked (no room in the inn, remember). So, they take what is left–a stable (or a cave). Early Christmas morning (December 25), Mary gives birth to Jesus in a “barn”, the angels arrive (singing parts of Handel’s Messiah) and announce this to the shepherds, who immediately run to the stable, followed quickly by 3 wise men on camels bearing gifts. The next day, when the wise men leave, Joseph loads up Mary and the new-born Jesus and flees to Egypt till Herod dies.

WHAT IS THE REAL STORY? I will give you a clue–it is found in Matthew and Luke. But consider a few things:

  • Where does it say Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem?
  • Where does it say there were 3 wise men? And that they road camels?
  • Where does it say that there were “hotels” (inns)? The translation of the word is actually “guest room.”
  • Would anyone refuse a place for Joseph (a descendant of David) in David’s home town?
  • Would any Jew make that 70-mile trip to Bethlehem by riding through Samaria?

For more on this–and to help you sift out the real story–may I suggest getting a copy of:

  • Christmas: The Real Story by Dr. Harry Wendt
  • Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Dr. Kenneth E. Bailey

Both books are available at: www.crossways.org