I’m celebrating Christmas tomorrow. Actually, I’ve been celebrating it for at least a month now. It’s a big holiday, and it’s part of my family traditions.
All the songs, and the stories
The story of the baby Jesus born in a manger.
Away in a manger
No crib for a bed
We were telling the kids in Sunday school about it. Poor humble Jesus.
Poor Mary on the road because of some highly inconvenient government mandate.
I had to look it up. There are only two gospels that mention Jesus’s birth. Matthew and Luke. Matthew is the headliner in the New Testament, because he leads it. Matthew chapter 1 tells us about Jesus’ birth, with a big “begat” section of genealogy.
Mary is skipped over, mostly. Joseph gets the angel visit in a dream and:
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”
Matthew is supposed to show the human-ness of Jesus. The “Man”ness of him. So, mom is off screen.
Two whole gospels later, Luke spices up the story. He was writing for a non-Jewish audience, and there is more drama in the popular Greek and Roman mythologies. His audience expects more. He gives some drama, including a solo for Mary.
Adding a musical number gives it some juice! The Angels got an ensemble piece later and the whole thing got wheels. It’s still a hit.
Luke was the one who staged it in a barn, with live animals and a manger and everything.
As far as Matthew was concerned, humble wasn’t the theme. Jesus pops out and almost immediately is gifted gold by leading scholars. He did have a fleeing-from-the-king problem, but that is a high-class problem to be singled out as the usurper.
Luke brought out the humility. And as we were telling the kids about poor poor Jesus in his barn I remembered Milton.
I remembered Satan from Paradise Lost.
We were in the world of Biblical stories with Luke and his ensemble cast. It was within easy reach.
Remember Satan? Starting out as Lucifer, clothed in light, he got jealous and started a coup d’etats up in heaven. Bad move.
He loses and is exiled to fire-and-brimstone hell. Yuck.
There he has time to plot, as well as be described in fantastical detail by Milton. He plots to sneak into this “Earth” place God just built and make some mischief.
The part that zinged my memory was when he lands his big old sneaky snakey body on earth.
He loses his mind by how beautiful it is. Milton puts line after line of archaic poetry in his mouth to express it:
O Earth, how like to Heav’n, if not preferr’d
He is homesick for heaven, missing its glory and when he lands on earth he says that God was just practicing on heaven and made earth even better!
This place where we keep our stuff.
The sun, the stars, and the cows and the straw.
All the little parts of it in small and in aggregate are glorious.
Hi Jesus! Welcome to Earth!
We have stars and straw!
And moms and cows!
It turns out that even if there had been room at the Inn, it would only have been incrementally more glorious than what this place has to offer.
This whole place–all of it–is a fantastic Christmas present.
I’m so grateful for it all.
And I thank you, my readers, for being here with me.
Merry Christmas! And may your dreams be bright.