All those Christmases3
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
- Luke 2:4
Jesus’ birth ushers in a new chapter of history, but it isn’t the first chapter in history. He was born into a Jewish family living under the Roman occupation. He was born into a family with history and problems.
Joseph (Jesus’ adoptive father) could trace his family tree back to King David, the legendary poet-warrior of Israel. Children in Jesus’ day would hear stories about King David as a young man fighting lions and giants. They would hear their parents talking politics, how that impostor-king Herod who the Romans had placed in charge wasn’t even related to King David. The children would hear priests and prophets claiming that one day God would restore Israel to her rightful place and put a true son of David on the throne.
In the centuries leading up to Jesus’ birth, wave after wave of rebel leaders tried to claim kinship to King David and wrest the rule of Israel away from the occupying Romans. Most of us have never heard their names: Judas Maccabeus, Simon of Peraea, Athronges, and Judas of Galilee. Each one of them led significant revolutions that ultimately fell to the Roman legions.
Jesus was born in David’s town and to David’s family. Today’s passage points this out because the gospel writers intend to make the bold claim that Jesus was the long-awaited Davidic King, come to set God’s people free.
The first Christmas happened inside of a larger story. This year’s does, too. This year’s Christmas has the potential to be the best Christmas ever because it stands in a long line of Christmases that go all the way back to that first Christmas.
You have the opportunity this year to learn from your experiences in Christmas-past. You have a chance to lean into good traditions or make healthier ones. You can reach back to that first-century Christmas and give great thanks that Jesus came to set us free.
Take a few minutes today to ask yourself this question: what influence does all of the past Christmases have on the way I’m preparing for this year’s Christmas?