We have all heard the classic Christmas song and know most of the lyrics. Take Silent Night for example: “Silent Night, Holy Night/Round yon virgin, mother and child/holy infant so tender and mild/sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”
Or perhaps another song you’re familiar with is Away in a Manger: “Away in a manger no crib for a bed/the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head/the stars in the sky look down where he lay/the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”
Though I do not deny that these songs are beautiful and meaningful about the birth of Christ, I feel that many songs as well as churches in the West overlook the dark side of what really took place on the night of Jesus’ birth.A verse that always troubled me was Matthew 2:16: “When Herod saw that the wise men had tricked him, he was furious. So he gave an order to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem and in the surrounding area who were two years old or younger. This was in keeping with the time he learned from the wise men.”
That doesn’t really sound like a silent night at all! Along with that, a number verses about Jesus’ birth and other stories are overlooked or unexplained, whether it is because Christians would rather focus on the love and grace rather than difficult and dark topics in the Scriptures, or simply because Christians read through the Scriptures without really reflecting on it.
When I was attending service a few Sundays ago at Granada Heights Friend’s Church, the Pastor focused on this specific topic about the birth of Christ. He began to bring up questions that people have usually asked such as, “Why did God’s timing for Mary to give birth have to be around the time of the Caesar Augustus’ Census?” or “Why did God allow the children to be slaughtered under Herod?” Throughout his sermon, he focused on the real story of Christ rather than the sugar coated version many children and even adults hear from our pulpits today. One fact he covered that many Christians have come to realize was that the stable Jesus was born in was most likely a cave, it probably smelled from the animals that were in there, and that the only visitors to see the Son of God were shepherds. You would expect the Messiah to be born in a temple of royalty and have everyone bowing down while offering gifts, right? Not even close. It was one of, if not, the lowest of the low places to be born in (talk about humility).
There were other facts he preached about that even I wasn’t aware of, one of them being the weather conditions during the birth. This is rather something small one would consider, but it does stand out when you really think about it. It is known that the time of day was either the evening or night by the time Jesus was born considering the Shepherds had visited him at night (Luke 2:8). Along with the cold weather, there is also the realization that the stable (or cave) didn’t have any doors, windows, or bedding, so the cold air would be flowing in and out. The only things Mary and Joseph had in their possessions were the clothes they had on their backs, the little belongings and food rations they carried with them on their journey to Bethlehem, and just enough cloth to wrap baby Jesus in.
One final fact that many tend to overlook is the labor pain Mary must have gone through. Many people say that the birth of a child is a beautiful and meaningful moment, and it is, but it is also a painful and scary moment for the wife and even for the husband. Also, keep in mind that Mary was between the ages of 14 to 17 since it was Jewish custom for a woman to be married at an early age.
It is never good to ignore these facts in the Scriptures, which is why it is important to ask questions, look for answers, and even pray about them by asking God “why?” Around the end of service, the worship band played a song called Labor of Love. It covers the difficulties, the pain, and the sadness that Jesus and His earthly family must have struggled through on that night while at the same time focusing on the birth of Christ and how God prevails in the end.
Once again, the first verse as I recited the lyrics to Silent Night greatly stood out to me: It was not a silent night/There was blood on the ground/you could hear a woman cry/in the alleyways that night/on the streets of David’s town.
Despite all this, the birth of Christ is not one of sadness, but rather, a day of rejoicing that the Messiah had finally come into the world and fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel / Shall come to thee, O Israel. The same can be said with later on with Good Friday and Easter. Yes, Jesus’ death was awful and excruciating, but it was also a day of rejoicing by recognizing that the debt of man (sin) was paid in full by God himself.
It is not my intention to ruin your favorite Christmas songs or make you upset about the Scriptures, but to encourage you to seek the Scriptures more deeply and to think critically and Biblically about certain moments in the Bible and to ask questions and search for answers. So this Christmas as you read about the birth of Christ, I hope and pray that you will keep this in mind and even discover new things for yourself.
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