Myths of the Nativity

Advent and Christmas are two crucial elements of the yearly church calendar, stained glass nativitytrailing only Easter and Pentecost in ultimate significance. The birth of Christ, and the period of hope and expectation leading up to it, is a season of celebration for the church, perhaps the most beloved time of year, with the most well-known and loved hymns and traditions. At the center of it all is the Biblical story of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus Christ, in a manger, in Bethlehem.

Yet, for Christians who read the Bible critically, with historical and cultural context scrutiny, it can also be a difficult season. Studying the text alongside commentaries and analysis reveals the shaky factual foundation of such things as the Roman census, the location of Bethlehem, the appearance of the magi, the identities and attributes of Mary and Joseph, the Virgin Birth, and the date of December 25th. The question emerges, what is left of Advent and Christmas when this foundation is shaken? How can we find meaning and power in a story that largely appears to be myth and embellishment?

These are the questions I want to answer with this series, Myths of the Nativity. These are questions I have struggled with and pondered, and I want to share that struggle and opportunity for new understandings here, with others who may feel the same way.

Over the next few days, we are going to discuss and think about several different topics pulled from the Nativity:

  • Mary, Joseph and the Virgin Birth
  • Bethlehem vs. Nazareth
  • The Adoration: Magi and Shepherds
  • the Flight to Egypt and Herod’s Decree
  • The Meaning of December 25th, Christmas Trees, Advent
  • Jolly Old St. Nick

All in all, over the course of a week, I want to look at how we, as critical readers of the Biblical text, can learn to think about and talk about the story of Jesus’ birth, and what Christmas means in light of all this.

I encourage you to participate: please comment, question, challenge, and doubt what I say, and join in learning about a new way of looking at Christmas.



8 thoughts on “Myths of the Nativity

  1. Sounds interesting, however I’m a bit bummed that you’re spreading it out over a week. Personally, I’d like to jump right into it and see what I don’t know about these things! I’m guessing it will be quite a bit.


    1. Haha this is my secret plot to make you come back to my blog! But really, there is quite a bit of stuff I’m going to hit, and I don’t have near the time it would take to sit down and write it all at once. Spacing it out over a week makes it s bit more manageable. I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you find this series enlightening!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I’m going to be presenting my opinion on these topics, not a comprehensive literature analysis. There is plenty of stuff out there on the “traditional” views of Christmas and Advent; I’m more interested in sharing what I’ve learned and where I come down on this stuff and why I believe the way I do. I fear that may not satisfy your fear of “one side of the argument.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As someone who wrestles with scriptures the way that Jacob wrestled the Angel – I love this idea. But I also just like the “fairy tale” of the Nativity. Sometimes I stop wrestling and snuggle up with Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Angeles, Shepherds and Wise Guys. Personally, my only Christmas tradition with the kids was to read the first chapter of John by flashlight in the dark instead of Matthew or Luke . John talks about the spiritual reason for the season – which is the part that matters to me.


    1. I agree. I don’t want this series to lead anyone to think that I find the Gospel stories unimportant. Exactly the opposite: I want to boil them down, study the historicity present, to imbue these stories with even more meaning. There is great value in them; everything about the Nativity stories as we have them is of much importance; the eternal truth contained therein is indescribable. I hope, through this series, we can gain a greater appreciation of what it all means.

      Liked by 1 person

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