During the past three weeks, we have been learning about the nativity stories in the Bible. We learned that only Matthew and Luke tell stories of the birth of Jesus and why they tell very different stories. We also examined why Mark and John do not tell that story. I explained to you that being historically accurate was not of any importance to the gospel writers and that the purpose of the gospel books was to teach their audiences that Jesus was God’s Anointed One.
Since contexts are crucial to understanding Matthew’s and Luke’s nativity stories, instead of hearing them like they are fairy tales or folk tales, I would like to encourage you to imagine Jesus being born in our context to better understand the meaning of Christmas, and the message of the Good News of God’s reign (or kingdom) that Jesus dedicated his adult life preaching.
In Luke’s story, Jesus was born in a stable and was visited by lowly shepherds because Luke’s audience was a community of poor and marginalized people. In Matthew, Jesus and his parents stayed in a regular house because Matthew’s audience was not poor people. In Matthew, instead of poor shepherds, foreigners came to worship the baby to teach the majority Jewish community that the Saviour was not only for the Jews but for everyone. That is why we also saw the foreigners’ names in the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew chapter one.
Where would Jesus be born today? He might be born in a refugee camp in Kenya or in the homeless district of Los Angeles. He might be born from a low-income family in Sicamous and have his onesies and blankies from our thrift shop. He might be born from a lesbian couple and be blessed by the members of his community, or he might be adopted by gay parents while the homophobic grandparents claim that the baby would be better off in the streets than be raised in a gay family.
Did these examples sound strange or shocking to you? Then be assured that the birth stories in Matthew and Luke would have been strange to their contemporaries too, even scandalous. We need to go through the experience of feeling uncomfortable at what the stories are telling to be able to understand the Gospel of Jesus. The reign of God that Jesus preached and lived out is subversive. Remember Mary’s song of praise; it sings of God who lifts up the lowly and brings down the powerful from their thrones. Foreigners, and not devout Jews, visited the Jewish messiah first. Lowly shepherds, and not the people with status, were visited by the angels to hear the news first. It’s like when I felt empowered watching the female superhero in Wonder Woman and black heroes in Black Panther. Representation matters, as they say nowadays. Gentile Christians, the poor, the women, the disabled, and so on, would have been empowered by the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke.
As we reflect on the birth of Jesus, let us remember that they were intended to be subversive to give hope to those who don’t hold power in the society and to empower them. The Gospel of Jesus empowers the powerless and challenges those with power to use their power for the greater good. Therefore, let us give thanks for the birth of God in human form who taught us that God’s reign is based on compassion and equality. God loves us all equally, no matter what our society might say. That is why we rejoice and sing, and go out to serve God’s people who are in need. I pray that you will see the birth of Jesus, the symbol of God’s love, in our local and global communities through our acts of love. Through Jesus, we received God’s love that does not discriminate. So, let us share this love with our words and actions. Be blessed with this spirit of Christmas.