The birth and childhood of Jesus: Day one

The birth and childhood of Jesus: Day one

From today until the 31 December 2021, we’re going to be sharing each day’s reading from our New Daylight September–December 2021 Bible reading notes. Sheila Walker is the author of these thought-provoking notes on the birth and childhood of Jesus. We hope that the readings over the next few days will encourage you in your walk of faith this season.

The birth and childhood of Jesus

The birth and childhood of Jesus The Christmas story is probably the best-known part of the Bible, even to those who are not regular churchgoers. But how do people see it? I suspect that for many it is indeed just a story, a ‘once upon a time’ fable that ranks alongside Snow White and Goldilocks. And to be fair, Christians have colluded: how many Christmas cards have you had depicting the three kings arriving at a somewhat desolate stable? How many nativity plays have starred that overworked and less-than-hospitable innkeeper? How often have you sung about a baby who never cried, even in the bleak midwinter?

Woe, indeed, to the one who presumes to question a much-loved narrative; I will be treading on dangerous ground here! But just how much of this Christmas narrative is fact and how much embroidery? Does the biblical text fully bear the interpretation we bring to it? As with any passage of scripture, there will always be issues of translation – in this case, from the Aramaic spoken by Jesus and his contemporaries into Greek – and of how the material for each gospel was edited. The gospels are indeed factual, historical documents but recorded with a particular theological intent: in Luke’s case, to reveal Jesus as the Saviour of the world. 

Of course, we are entitled – invited, even – to use our imagination when we read scripture. But we are not to accord to our imaginings the authority of the word of God or write them into every retelling of the story. We can be sure that nothing of value will be lost, and maybe something gained from taking a somewhat critical look at this narrative – that is my hope. 

For such an amazing event, the Christmas narrative is remarkably restrained: no purple passages, no detail, no hype. And when we come to the childhood of Jesus, we have even less to go on, apart from apocryphal stories of carved birds being made to fly. But we must surely trust that we have been told all we need to know in order to believe that the Saviour of the world has indeed come among us.


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