Merry Christmas!

The Nativity as interpreted by Paul Gaugin (in a Tahitian setting)

Today is the day we celebrate the most famous poor person in history. Lest we forget.

From a sermon by a guy named Rev. Doug Kuiper:

The first aspect of Jesus’ lowly birth to which the text directs our attention is His earthly poverty. That Jesus was born in poverty is evident especially from the clothes in which He was wrapped.

It is true that His being born in a cattle stall and laid in a manger indicates poverty; but it does not primarily indicate poverty. Joseph and Mary found shelter here not because they could not afford an inn, but because there was no room for them in the inn.

But the clothes in which He was wrapped! They were swaddling clothes. The English word “swaddling” indicates that these were clothes in which a baby was wrapped. But the Greek word translated “swaddling” indicates that these clothes were pieces of old castoff clothing which were cut up into strips, and wrapped around a baby. This surely was not the kind of clothing that a baby of rich parents would be wrapped in; he would be dressed with decent clothing. But Jesus was wrapped in rags. He was born poor; Joseph and Mary were poor.

This poverty of Jesus which was evident in His birth was an indication that He would be poor His whole life. Jesus never was rich in material goods. God saw to it that His earthly needs were always supplied; He was given food and drink, clothing and shelter. But God supplied Him with these gifts from day to day, not in abundance. Jesus Himself told His disciples, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

It’s ironic that we celebrate such a day (the day itself coopted from the pagan worshippers of Mithra, just so the Catholic church could suck the pagans in…) by pretending that it is in fact, OUR birthday. But there you go. And of course, that tradition comes courtesy of a certain story on 34th Street in Manhattan. At the end of the day, the holiday has evolved more into a secular celebration of family, and a chance for kids to believe in magic that comes down the chimney.

Whatever the origins of the Christmas tradition, here’s hoping that we take at least a moment today to acknowledge those who, like Jesus, have “not where to lay their head.”

A merry and peaceful Christmas to you all (and a happy Hannukah too. After all, the poor kid in the manger WAS Jewish, so it’s appropriate that Hannukah get its due.)

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