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December 2005 

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The wonderful story of Christmas



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The wonderful story of Christmas

histoire de Noël Luke (Chapter 2) is the only one of the evangelists to relate to the details of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Exegetes and historians agree that the estimate date of his birth is anterior to the date given by Dionysius the Thin for the start of the Christian calendar in the VI century. And of course the date of December 25 is only there to represent the winter solstice (the beginning of a new solar year). 
The date of census for which Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem is difficult to establish. Why these inaccuracies? This is because the story of Christmas is not an historic report. The announce of the angels to the shepherds, singing the glory of God "in the highest" clearly indicates a very different style of literature compared to an objective report from an historian. Does it means that it has no meaning? Certainly not, on the contrary, because any choice made by the evangelist expresses something stronger than an historical fact.

First of all he wants to insert Jesus in the expectation of the coming of the Messiah by his people. He should have come from the family of David, then insisting he be born in Bethlehem, the City of David, and giving a reason for travelling to Joseph and Mary.
Just after that he describes the birth, not like the kings but in an extreme simplicity: a stable, without a cradle but "lying in a manger". 

né dans la crèche

In an astonishing few sentences Luke rapidly presented to us the rich personality of Jesus who showed himself as a master and a servant, both glorified and scorned. As this child is not like any "new born wrapped in swaddling cloths" Luke used a style with wonders to underline the exceptional life that Jesus will have. Of course the authors of the Gospel know it well since Luke wrote his Gospel about 40 years after the events of the life and resurrection of the one they named Lord. In biblical texts the angels are always present. They are personalities recognized as carrying a message from God. We see them in huge number, like a choir singing for the glory of God and then disappear into heaven. Heaven is understood as the place where God is. When Jesus was born, one wants us to understand that heaven and earth are no more separated. In other episodes of Jesus' life, similar kinds of wonders are used like a voice coming from heaven or heaven opens itself. God himself in Jesus comes close to humanity.

berger The shepherds were mysteriously told about the birth and they represented a social category of a bad reputation. They were considered as tramps or robbers. The decision of Luke to put them in his story has a reason. Later Jesus will say:" I did not come for the righteous but for the sinner". The excluded ones from society were the first to participate to the new great news of Jesus and believed in it. They were the first apostles, to leave the stable and to tell every one what the angels had told them about the child. 

This story is in fact a revelation: God himself specifically takes a human body in Jesus and then demonstrates his total involvement in the future of mankind. For those who discover that this great news gives a full meaning to their human condition, Christmas continues, every year, to be a wonderful story.