Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22961 – 1038
Here’s the haps:
Commercial-mas is almost upon us this year and things are as crazy as ever. Since I grew up in a religion that didn’t believe in any celebrations of any sort, especially Christmas, it is still a really magical time for me. I am constantly filled with awe and wonder at the story of the Creator of the Universe being born among us. Not as a king, but as a common man. I am awed by the practical side of the story, too. I like to imagine different parts of a story as I get ready to teach it to my Sunday School children. The Christmas story is especially fun. You can take almost every aspect of it and make something special and interesting, and often funny, out of it. I live near the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and have had the misfortune to travel up the Interstate from Colorado Springs to Denver. Seventy-five miles does not sound far, but thousands of people live in Denver that work in The Springs, and thousands of people that live in The Springs work in Denver, and every single one of them is always running late. This is not a fun trip. Then I had another thought.
What if you lived in a time when the best of roads was a dirt path? Not in a free society but under an emperor who is believed to be a god. If he issues an edict that everyone should travel back to the town where their ancestors originated to be counted in a census and properly taxed there would be no questioning or gainsaying it, even if you lived in a small mountain community and made a living fixing broken chairs and mending chicken coops. Perhaps you’d occasionally be called upon to build one of the hovels that pass for a house in the village or you might help repair the olive press if it breaks. Maybe you build and repair mangers. You are a craftsman, a man with a useful and necessary trade and you take pride in your work. It would not matter that you are a descendant of the house of the mighty King David. So what? Who isn’t? It seems that everyone has some link or claim to ascendancy, but it really doesn’t matter anyway. There is no royal house anymore; your country has been occupied by the Roman Empire.
You are, perhaps, content living in this little village because you were sick of life in the big city and dealing with the Romans every day, so you moved north, to a little mountain town where you can have some peace and quiet. Nazareth is 75 miles north of Jerusalem as the crow flies although by trails it is likely 90 to 120 miles and then Bethlehem is about another 5 miles south after that. All with a rise in elevation of over thirteen hundred feet. (This means something if you have ever hiked in the mountains.) I personally disagree with the critics who say it could not have been December 25th because of this or that reason, but we really don’t know. The Bible doesn’t command us to celebrate His birth and does not give a date. A date in either the fall around September or sometime in spring would be good, too, but since it’s all arbitrary anyway the date we have been using for the last 1700 years or so seems fine to me.
I can only imagine that if a decree went out from Caesar Augustus there would also be a deadline attached, which we don’t know, so I can arbitrarily attach a date that best fits my imaginative telling.
One final note, betrothal was second in seriousness only to being married, leaving only the consummation to take place after the wedding. Unlike our immoral modern times being casually “shacked up” was a serious offense and getting “knocked up” could be cause for a public stoning.
I have rewritten this story a bit from last year as I am either arrogant or self-confident enough to believe in my ability to improve my telling of it. I think it’s better than the first telling I wrote 15 years ago. I think I was able to improve it and hopefully, it’s different enough to hold your attention as I try to tell my imagined version of the Life of Joseph, stepfather to the Son of God.