23 Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. He announced the good news of the kingdom and healed every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread throughout Syria. People brought to him all those who had various kinds of diseases, those in pain, those possessed by demons, those with epilepsy, and those who were paralyzed, and he healed them. 25 Large crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from the areas beyond the Jordan River.
There is joy in watching the children’s Christmas pageant every year; the little kids dress up in bathrobes with towels wrapped around their heads and act out the Christmas story; well, at least a common remembrance of it. Anyone who looks for the pageant version of the Christmas story in the Bible will be disappointed. Matthew has magi, Luke shepherds, neither has both and how did the donkey and innkeeper get introduced to the story?
Now, although some might be dismayed that a children’s drama is not “Biblically accurate”, there are some valuable lessons in the way Christmas is portrayed. First, we see the impact of Jesus on society when the wealthy magi are thrust next to the working-class shepherds. What else could bring these two groups together in humble reverence, except the incarnation? Jesus has a marvelous way of bringing people together and what better way to illustrate this than to see it happen at his birth. Even if Mary probably was not in labor as they were arriving in Bethlehem, it is fitting to see such a high level of expectancy and urgency. Jesus is continuously entering the world and we need to be in a state of readiness to welcome him. Watching Mary desperate to welcome her baby into the world should help us realize we too must be looking out for Jesus to enter our world daily. Lastly, what about those mythic characters, the donkey and the innkeeper? The donkey, besides making a pregnant lady’s journey easier, reminds us of that other time Jesus arrived on a donkey, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The donkey helps us think of Jesus’ mission in the world and status as king. The innkeeper clearly points us toward our responsibility of welcoming Jesus into our lives. Joseph and Mary may not have been in desperate need of accommodations; however, the innkeeper’s role is to show us a pattern for living. He, in the spirit of Jesus, welcomes those in need despite the personal difficulty. What an example of showing hospitality to the less fortunate. In the story the innkeeper welcomes in a poor couple out of the goodness of his heart; should we not do the same?
Gracious Lord, help me to see in your birth all the lessons you wish to teach me, even those taught by the simplest of your servants. And may I work with you to bring the world together under your holy name. Amen.