A Very Ghetto Christmas

Posted: December 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

Do you remember Ricky Bobby’s prayer in Talladega Nights? It is frighteningly close to our own view of Jesus, especially the nativity scene.  Ricky envisioned this eternal child wearing gold diapers and we picture this perfect Christmas scene with a smiling, energetic Mary (even though she just gave birth) and a bunch of animals around looking like something out of a Disney movie! Yet, the real scene was much messier!

 For example, “The Little Town of Bethleham” actually had a bad reputation. Not a “bad” reputation like Vegas but like ’70’s era Detroit.
Remember that Jacob buried his wife Rachel there and in Judges 19 a prostitute from Bethlehem is murdered, chopped up and Fed-Ex’d across Israel (that scene probably didn’t make the felt board in your Sunday school!).
Thus, Bethlehem had a reputation for violence. 
What about Mary & Joseph and the Christmas story?
It appears from the various texts that Joseph took Mary in before they were wedded but why did Joseph take Mary in?  Girls were supposed to stay with their parents until the wedding ceremony. Probably because Mary’s family had kicked her out or worse they were trying to kill her! After all, even today in the Middle East, girls could be killed for bringing dishonor on their family and there is no indication that Mary’s family believed her story.
Look at Luke 1:39-45,

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Now ask why was Mary travelling alone? Young women weren’t supposed to ever travel alone.  In fact, why was she running up into the hills while she was pregnant? Again, she may not have had a choice and notice she stayed there for 3 months!  Not exactly an afternoon visit.
Mary probably then spent the next 6 months with Joseph possibly hiding from her own family.
Now look at Luke 2:1-7,
2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

A census was taken for only 1 of 2 reasons: military conscription or taxes and Mary was not responsible for either…so, why was she travelling 100 miles (possibly by foot)for six days while 9-months pregnant? Again, she may not have had a choice. 
Also, Bethlehem was too small to have an “inn.”  The Greek word used in verse 6 is katalyma while the Greek word for hotel is pandocheion (Luke 10:34).  Katalyma normally means “guest room” (see Mark 14:14; Luke 2:7 and 22:11). Why is that important?  Jewish hospitality demanded that relatives be given a place to stay…why were Joseph & Mary denied space? Because they were outcasts. 
Men probably laughed at Joseph behind his back for marrying a woman who was pregnant, as far they were concerned, with someone else’s child.  Men and women both viewed Mary as a “loose woman” (to be kind) who deserved to be stoned to death for disgracing her family.
And then who is called to witness this event? Shepherds who were considered absolute trash by their fellow Israelites (Luke 2:8-20).
So, you have two outcasts who were forced to sleep with filthy animals and the only eyewitnesses are the dregs of society.
Yet consider what God did through this event? Now look around at the people who are Revolution Church and ask what you see…or better…what you don’t see? You don’t see many people of wealth or influence.  You may come to Revolution for a spiritual charge because the preacher drops a lot of pop culture references and the music is cool but you may think that real church work is done by large churches with impressive buildings, entertaining children’s programs, etc.
Yet, 2000 years ago, who would you have bet on to change the world? Caesar with all of his wealth and power or a homeless teacher executed for treason and raised by poor, ghetto outcasts?  Yet, who really changed the world?
What can God do through a ghetto church like ours?  Anything He wants…because that’s how He works.
God doesn’t (and shouldn’t) share His glory with anyone.  When large, powerful churches filled with wealthy people do good things like sign up for the Advent Conspiracy or hire someone to coordinate a Celebrate Recovery ministry then people tend to say, “Wow! What a church!” But when a collection of outcasts storm the gates of Hell in the name of Christ people look and say, “Wow! What a God!” 
Soli Deo Gloria,  my fellow outcast Revolutionaries!
  1. malin friess says:

    I learn something new every time I read your blog….enlightening.

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