Monday, November 29, 2021


As Christmas approaches, I come again up against the tradition in Western Christianity that Jesus was born to poor parents, and rejected by the world around him. After reading Kenneth Bailey's Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes four years ago I came to view the Christmas story quite differently. These things are not in the text, and their popularity can be traced quite solidly to other Christian texts of the early centuries that were eventually rejected as Scripture.  Yet they persist.

I have found since that time that people have a deep attachment to the idea that Jesus was poor and rejected.  It has always been the Western fashion, accelerating over the last few centuries (I think not coincidentally with the rise of some economic theories), and especially over the last few decades, in which it is increasingly asserted that Jesus was a refugee - a category that is modern and related to nation-states and the idea of "asylum," rather than merely "going into exile to get away from danger." Yet it is not only those who have a suspicious political agenda who show their attachment.  It just seems to be part of the furniture in our culture that there was no room in the inn (there was no inn) and Jesus was poor, rejected, and abandoned.  

I don't particularly object to it.  I did just post Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band singing something with that sentiment.  We have read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever aloud every December for four decades. I certainly don't find any evidence that Joseph was prosperous. He was a "workman" in a region where there were a lot of building projects, so he likely had regular employment. No more than that. People take umbrage because they believe the episode is a necessary piece of the Theology of the Cross, or an understanding of who Jesus was and who he came to save. If it's not in the text, it can't be necessary.  I think the Theology of the Cross can stand just fine on its own without any extra-textual support.

But more importantly, everything else about his arrival points to God giving reminders of his welcome into this world.  First Mary, then Joseph, then John the Baptist in the womb, then Angels, then Shepherds, then Simeon, then Anna, then the Magi. The world is secretly welcoming this supposedly unremarkable child at every turn. The rejection all comes later, not until well into his ministry. It is certainly prophesied before that.  But there isn't evidence of it yet.


james said...

Even later, the crowds were delighted with the healer/bread&fish provider. For a while.

The Mad Soprano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Mad Soprano said...

The one who rejected Jesus when he was born was Herod, and that was because he feard for his throne.

Zachriel said...

The Gospel doesn't mention a donkey, an innkeeper, as even the original word for inn may mean guest room, no three kings, but an unknown number of magi who arrived much later. The manger may have been in the main room a house. Animals were often sheltered indoors. It may even have been a relative's house. It's Joseph's hometown, after all, and they had been in town for some time. The shepherds must have found the accommodations appropriate or they would have offered them better. Nor was Jesus born around the time of the winter solstice. However, the donkey, if any, would confirm their middle class status.

We do disagree about the term "refugee," meaning 'a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution,' being misapplied.

But does any of that really matter here at Christmastime? Happy Christmas!

GraniteDad said...

Happy Christmas, Zachriel!