It’s time to shed off misconceptions about Christmas. Stop reading. Are you ready to disturb your magical moments of traditional nativity stories? I told you to stop reading. The write-up is for those who are spiritually awake to experience the mystery of the incarnation. It’s a brutal journey to correct the nonscriptural details about Christmas stories.
Are you sure you want to do this?
Misconceptions occur due to the popular depiction of the nativity scene on T.V. shows, storybooks, paintings, and Christmas pageants. Christmas based on popular assumptions leads people astray. Sometimes enough is not done to counter the existing myths around Christmas. The best attempts fail to reach ordinary people. How to verify Christmas stories? Look at what the Bible says about it.
Don’t convince yourself that you know the details of what happened in the Christmas story, and maybe you do; nothing can stop you from checking if I got it right here.
We continuously listen to the typical WRONG story of Jesus’ birth. It goes something like this: it’s the evening of December 25, Mary comes to Bethlehem riding on a donkey on the verge of giving birth to baby Jesus. The Innkeeper shut doors due to no room for the desperate couple. Jesus is born in a stable with animals. The angels singing to the shepherds, and after a few days, the three kings with camels arrive to worship the newborn.
The above is the incorrect story. But it is retold, again and again, distorting the actual events mentioned in the Bible.
How to correct misconceptions of the Christmas story
1. Jesus’ birthday is on December 25
No. Christians do commemorate the birth of Jesus on December 25. But that’s not the actual date of Jesus’ birthday. It can’t be wintertime. The Bible records the shepherds watching their sheep out in the field at night (Luke 2:8). The shepherd would refrain from venturing out during winter nights.
Yes, Jesus may have been born between spring and fall. A legend of the star of Bethlehem states that Jesus was born on August 21 in 7 B.C. It is based on the extraordinary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. Based on these, some are led to conclude that Jesus’ zodiac sign is Pisces or fishes.
I don’t advocate this line of thought. But I am fascinated with the human mind to find answers through correlation. One thing is sure: Jesus was not born on December 25. I have a blog post on what you need to know about December 25.
2. Mary riding a Donkey on the way to Bethlehem
It’s a popular notion, often depicted on postcards: Mary riding on a donkey on the way to Bethlehem. The Bible does not say so. It is a bumpy ride for a woman with a child, and imagine doing it in wintertime. The Bible only says Mary traveled with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-5). It does not tell how.
3. Mary arrives in Bethlehem during the night to give birth
There is no record of Mary arriving at night in Bethlehem. Indeed, Mary and Joseph could have come weeks earlier. The Bible says, “while they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for the baby to be born (Luke 2:6).
4. Joseph spoke with the Innkeeper
There is no evidence that Joseph or Mary talked to any innkeepers. You will see an innkeeper in Christmas plays. But no actual mention of an innkeeper in the Bible. It is obvious Mary and Joseph stayed with relatives, not a biblical-times hotel.
5. Joseph and Mary spend the night in the stable
Fairy tale accounts mention Joseph searching for a place to stay at night in an overbooked town. But the Innkeeper offers a stable instead of a room. Mary gives birth to Jesus surrounded by animals, as Joseph stands silent with his staff. The problem. Bible has no mention of an innkeeper (Luke 2:4-7) nor animals. It is essential to know that Jesus was not born under normal circumstances – something spectacular happened.
6. No Room for Mary and Joseph in the Inn
On the verge of giving birth, most people picture Mary and desperate Joseph searching for a room – only to be cruelly turned away by the Innkeeper. It is possible that there was never an “inn” at all. Inn is translated in Greek as a “place to stay.” Scholars say that Joseph might be staying with family in Bethlehem, and perhaps in the small guestroom, which did not have room for baby Jesus.
7. Jesus Born in a Stable
The logical misconception: if there is no place in the inn, Jesus must have been born in a stable. Bible does not explicitly say Jesus was born in a stable. It says Mary laid Jesus in a manger (Luke 2:7). It can suggest a stable. But it was common for village houses to keep a manger in the main room of the house. Because people kept animals a few feet away in the adjacent room.
What is reasonable to assume is that Mary gave birth to Jesus while staying at Joseph’s family house in Bethlehem. But due to the small guest room, Mary laid the child in the closest place of comfort – the manger.
8. Star in the sky at night when Jesus was born
If you choose a Christmas card with a nativity scene, you will notice a star over the manger. Star has become a quintessential symbol of Christmas. But there is no indication that a star hovered over the manger, the night Jesus was born. The shepherds were not told to find the star. The angel told shepherds that they would find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in the manger (Luke 2:12). The star was given to the magi (Matthew 2:2), who appear to visit Jesus after a year – either in Bethlehem or Egypt.
9. Angels present at the birth of Jesus
It is possible. But the scripture does not record it, nor the angels are visible to Mary and Joseph.
10. Angels Singing
Christmas Carols. And oral stories of Jesus’ birth convey the angels sang to the shepherds after announcing the birth of Jesus. But it is not found in the scripture (Luke 2:8-15). The text says that the angels told the shepherds that Jesus is born. The scripture mentions that the Angels praised God; no mention is made of music (Luke 2:14).
11. The Three Wise Men
Movies. There are lots of them. The Nativity scene adds to the popularity of the wise men. We are unsure if there were three wise men. The number is implied due to the three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).
You will conclude it: the wise men did not visit Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus in Bethlehem. They do not follow the shepherds to visit the baby Jesus. Luke does not mention wise men. According to Matthew, the magi start their journey only after Christ’s birth.
What is likely to have happened? The wise men visited the family in Egypt. Yes, Mary and Joseph fled with Jesus to escape Herod’s edict. The visit must have occurred between one or two years after Jesus’s birth.
12. Three kings riding camels arrive after eight days
Bible does not mention kings or camels arrive to adore Jesus. It is reported: wise men (magi) came. The magi, used in the plural, suggests more than one. The Bible mentions three gifts: gold frankincense and myrrh but does not indicate the number of magi. There is no proof which country these men came from.
Yes, there are inconsistencies with what is known about Jesus’ birth. But the story of Jesus is marvelous. The details lead us to experience the Christ event. It’s an opportunity to learn about the purpose of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:1-20 and the Gospel of John). Christmas – the feast of incarnation – God became man to redeem sinful humanity. It’s awesome. And it happened on Christmas night. It is THE STORY.
December 21 is the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. And the ancients would take three days (December 25) to notice that the days were getting longer and sunlight beaming a bit more. Jesus is the light shining in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome the light. That’s the symbolism of Christmas – God among us.
Still confused! Read: How to Understand the Childhood Stories of Jesus in the Bible.
Tell me what you feel after reading the misconception in the comments below. I will respond to each.
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