Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Story of Christmas 

Years ago I was teaching at CYU (Chinese Youth University for Political Sciences) in Beijing, a small college run by the Communist Youth League. One of the units in the syllabus for the English Majors was about holidays. I wanted to give students an understanding of Christmas and what it was all about, because students in China have very little exposure to this. Most of my students had never been to a church. They did not grow up in homes with Christmas trees. So much of what Christians in countries with a history of Christmas tradition take for granted was completely absent from their upbringing.

So I went through the gospels and compiled a list of 20 facts about Christmas in chronological order (below). I gave this list to the students and then spent some time going through it and basically just telling the story. Then I divided them into groups and assigned them to make skits to present to the class. They were quite creative. One group actually showed the birth of the baby Jesus. One member of the group looks at the audience, and he says, “I’m just a horse doctor, but today I’m going to deliver a human.”

Basic Outline of Christmas
  1. Mary and Joseph are betrothed.
  2. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her that she has been chosen to bear the special child.
  3. Mary stays with her cousin for three months.
  4. Mary is discovered to be pregnant.
  5. Joseph decides to put her away quietly.
  6. Joseph has a dream, where is told that Mary has not been unfaithful.
  7. Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
  8. Everybody was required to go to their home town, so Joseph took Mary and went to Bethlehem.
  9. Bethlehem is very crowded, because so many people have come to their home town to register, so there is no room for them in the inn. They find a barn to have their baby.
  10. The angel appears to the shepherds.
  11. The shepherds go to visit the baby.
  12. Mary and Joseph take the baby to the temple in Jerusalem.
  13. Simeon saw the baby and recognized him. He says that this baby will bring light to many nations. He also tells Mary that a sword will pierce her heart.
  14. Wise men from Persia come to Jerusalem looking for the new King.
  15. Herod is very upset and asks them exactly when they first saw the star.
  16. He asks the Jewish scholars where this child is supposed to be born.
  17. Herod orders all the children in Bethlehem killed.
  18. Joseph is warned in a dream to go to Egypt.
  19. After Herod dies, Joseph returns to Israel and goes home to Nazareth.
  20. The child grew to be a healthy child and apparently took over his father’s business when Joseph died.

After you have finished reading this list, listen to the podcast (below). I have prepared a special slide presentation for this podcast that discusses some things that I did not have time to go over with my students. If you go through the slides while you are listening, it might be easier for you to follow the events.

Below the podcast widget I have listed some points to consider from the slides. This is for those of you who are interested in the main issue, which is what I feel is a major mistranslation of Luke 2:14. I did not discuss this part with my students, because it is perhaps quite a bit more technical than their interests would allow, but I think it might be will for those of you who are interested in the Bible as means of revealing God’s purpose and not just a cultural relic from the past.

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