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Birth of Jesus for Progressive Christians

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Winner – 2020 Best Bible Study – Illumination Book Awards.

What if the Christmas story is not really what we think it is? What if things happened differently than tradition has maintained over the centuries? What if the biblical account differs – sometimes quite substantially – from the story most of us know from the nativity plays we participated in

as children, or that our own children or grandchildren participate in? And what if the truth the authors of those stories are pointing to is not that Jesus was born in a miraculous way, but something that goes much deeper?

The Christmas story most people know comes from pageants, carols, or perhaps a television movie or two. But what we recall – and what many people seek to replicate each year – is an odd mixture of the two quite different stories contained in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, with certain pieces almost always present (even though they are not in the Bible at all) and with others sadly missing. The point of those versions of the story seems to be to nurture a warm, fuzzy feeling that leaves us cooing over a baby so we can then put the whole thing away as soon as possible after December 25 and get back to life as usual. But that’s not what the gospel writers had in mind.

To some extent, each of us fashions our own version of the “Christmas story.” Over time, as our associations and identification with that story grow, it can feel very uncomfortable and even disrespectful to disrupt or question that story. And yet these reactions can be instructive, for

they beg larger questions about what’s really important: the biblical narratives; or the traditions that have gathered around them, layered them, and at times obscured them; or the meaning all of this may have for your lives today?