Recently our church performed a fantastic original Broadway style musical called “Joe Carpenter.” The story is about Joseph and what it would have been like if the Christmas narratives had been set in a more modern day setting in the rural south. Joe lived with his mama, grandmother, aunt, and sister. It was quite a show filled with the Shepherd Family made up of Carnival workers who were visited with the news of Christ’s birth, along with a small town of busy bodies and gossips. It was as true to life of a story as one could ever experience and it resulted in a number of people giving their life to Jesus and making important spiritual decisions with their lives.
However, one of the things that really came out of the show is how narrow focused and how so many “church folks” genuinely miss the real thrust and reality of the Christmas stories recorded in the New Testament gospels. So many “church folks” sadly approach the entire Christmas story with the same legalism of heart and mind as the Pharisees and religious leaders who completely missed the first Christmas event.
We have lost the concept of Jesus being born into a real world filled with people who faced real world problems, struggles, sins, and issues. Our church culture as it relates to Christmas has become so filled with the pictures of a “Silent Night” where little baby Jesus slept oblivious to the world into which He was sent far “Away in a Manger.” It is almost as if we cannot in any way get ourselves away from the little porcelain nativity figures sitting on some table in our house.
The New Testament clearly shows us that Jesus was born into a real world. Those surrounding Mary and Joseph would have gossiped about them, called them names behind their backs, and the women of 1st century Bethlehem and Nazareth would have avoided Mary at all costs. The Shepherds would have not been welcomed any where in society by anyone. They were social outcasts and undesirables. Their very presence in the city limits of Bethlehem would have been considered repulsive. There was no room in the inn because people were preoccupied with their own lives. People faced financial difficulties because they, like Joseph, had to leave their jobs, spend money to travel back to their hometowns to register, and then when they arrived they had to pay a hefty Roman tax for the privilege of all the hassle and expenses. People would have felt hopelessness in their lives because God had not spoken to them in over 400 years, they had been ruled and oppressed for all of the years of their lives, knew very little freedom of any kind, and were burdened by religious legalism, sacrifices, and rules.
It was into that world that Jesus was born. He came to “save us from our sins.” In Jesus’ coming He offered us the 2 things the real world needed most: Grace and a second chance! Jesus is a real Savior sent into a real world filled with real people with real problems so that we might receive real forgiveness, salvation, and acceptance! This Christmas…let’s get real with Jesus!