This is Faith in Play #49: Oh, Christmas, for December 2021.
We all have images of Christmas with the angel choirs singing to the shepherds and the wise men bringing valuable presents to the baby. It is a time of joy, a time of peace, a time of happiness and celebration—and well it should be.
I think, though, that we overlook just how much trouble the birth of this baby was to so many people.
We’ll start with Mary. Sure, the angel was encouraging, but seriously, she’s a teenaged girl in a religious family, and the messenger arrives and says, “I’ve got good news: you’re pregnant.” She accepts this as God’s will for her life, but she knows what everyone is going to think. Her parents are never mentioned, and as she fairly quickly leaves with Joseph for another city, they were probably pleased to be rid of the embarrassment. We today revere her, but during her own life it was probably something some people never let her forget.
Then the news gets to Joseph, and boy, this is trouble for him. Which is worse, that people think it’s his child, or that they don’t? We know what he chose—that Jesus went to the temple for His bar mitzvah at twelve instead of thirteen means that He was identified as an illegitimate child. Poor Joseph, they’re all saying. Then of course he has to take her with him on the arduous journey from somewhere in Galilee to somewhere in Judea because he has to report her as his family for tax purposes.
And let us not forget the innkeeper. Bethlehem is packed to the gills, and this couple shows up at the door with her about to give birth, and if she has that baby in the house it’s going to mean half the staff and many of the guests wind up unclean, unable to attend Sabbath services or interact publicly. We wonder why there was no room, but a woman giving birth needs to be in a rather large space by herself so that no one comes in contact with her during her uncleanness. Bad enough that the stablehands are going to have to deal with them, let’s avoid contaminating the entire inn.
It must have been rather disturbing for Herod to hear that an heir to David’s throne was born. His efforts to become someone important in the Empire had gotten him this appointment as King of Israel, and he spent quite a fortune rebuilding the temple and trying to persuade the Jews that he really was one of them (he wasn’t). Now these foreign nobles have come looking for someone he could only identify as a usurper. We don’t have much sympathy for Herod, but he was in a bad spot.
Worse, though, thanks to the birth of Jesus and its impact on Herod, all those children were slaughtered. How many families lost sons at that time? And the blame falls on the fact that this one child was born in Bethlehem.
Jesus escaped this, but only because Joseph was warned, and the family fled the country and became refugees in Egypt for several years. Even when the situation changed, they couldn’t return to Bethlehem, but instead went back to Galilee to avoid being within the reach of Herod’s son, who succeeded his father on the throne.
All of this trouble over one baby.
Of course, no one said that saving the world would be easy, or that it would come without a cost. A lot of people had a lot of problems so that God could save the world.
Some of you are asking, what has this to do with gaming? Well, maybe not much, but not nothing. The biggest most joyful celebration in the world was really very costly in its inception. A lot of people suffered in a lot of ways so that all this good could come, and not all of them volunteered for it or even knew why it was happening.