Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Christmas in September

WARNING: I don't mean to offend anyone with this post.

I read this the other day.

Vatican nativity does away with the manger
For 25 years, the Christmas Nativity scene in front of St Peter's Basilica has shown the infant Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.  This year, however, the Vatican has decided to radically change the scene, shifting it to Nazareth, and placing Jesus in his father's carpentry shop.

When Pope Benedict XVI inaugurates the life-size Nativity scene on Christmas eve, the sheep and hay will be gone.  In their place will be a model of three rooms.  Jesus will lie in Joseph's shop, complete with "the typical work tools of a carpenter".  On one side, the shop will be flanked with a "covered patio", while on the other there will be the "inside of a pub, with its hearth".

The news came in an official statement from the State Department of the Vatican, which organises and builds the giant presepe, or Nativity scene.  The new setting was inspired by two verses in St Matthew's gospel, Chapter 1:24 and 1:25, the Vatican said, which state: "When Joseph woke up, he did as the Angel of God ordered and took Mary into his house. Without them knowing each other, a child was born and he called his name Jesus".

The gospel goes on to mention Jesus' birthplace as Bethlehem, but a spokesman for the Vatican said a decision had been made to place the scene in Nazareth regardless.

"It was time for a change," said the spokesman "and a return to St Matthew's gospel".

The traditional depiction of Jesus in a manger comes from St Luke's gospel, which said there was "no room at the inn".

I guess I just don't understand.  Why - if you know Christ was born in Bethlehem in a stable - would you decide it was "time for a change?"  I don't get it.  The Matthew verses just mean that Joseph married Mary even though she was pregnant - he took her into his house.

My other question: If we know that the wisemen were not actually there at the birth of Christ, but arrived 1 1/2 years later, why are they in the nativity?  Doug figures it is to celebrate the whole thing all at once and he says, "It didn't happen at Christmas either - it is just the celebration."  The scriptures also never specify 3 wise men.  I guess since there were 3 gifts...

Lastly, I always wondered what the point of the wise men was.  I know they came to worship the Christ child.  It finally occurred to me last night that they saved his life.  I guess I hadn't read the scriptures well enough in the past.  Herod told them to find Christ and come back and tell him where he was.  An angel told them not to return to Herod.  They saved his life and in the end - ours.  They were more important than I ever thought.

I don't mean to be all philosophical, but they were just a few points I thought were worth sharing.  

No comments: