Snow, we’ve got enough snow to guarantee a White Christmas. So we sit back and smile. In this part of Canada, Christmas and snow go together. Snow is not a part of the winter landscape in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. It may be chilly and rainy in that part of Israel, but snowfall happens only in the northern regions. Because we are human beings, we create the details of the Christmas story in our own image.
I have a friend who has collected nativity sets from all over the world. Each one has a Mary, a Joseph, a baby Jesus, three kings and some shepherds. But the similarity stops there. In some, the figures have shining black faces, some chocolate brown, some milky white. If we were trying to replicate the people of the Christmas story, most of the figures would have swarthy complexions. At least one, if not all of the kings would be black.
It’s not the details, but the story that is important. Jesus was born in an occupied country. His parents, struggling to obey the laws, made a long journey. They didn’t have enough money to bribe their way into the overcrowded inn. On the night of his birth, Jesus and his parents were homeless, relegated to the place where the animals slept.
Yet, even in this place, and under these stressful conditions, God acted. Jesus was born. To the celebration, God invited shepherds, at the time the lowest members of Jewish society, and Kings, their fine clothing and rich gifts out of place in that stable, or cave.
When we focus on the details that come from our culture, we miss the message. The ancient story tells us that God in Jesus was born into the world as we all are. People of every race and economic position are invited to celebrate Jesus and hear his message.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)