Posts Tagged ‘Jesus and holidays’

Have you ever wondered how Jesus handled family get-togethers at Christmas?

You say, “Wait a minute, Jim.  There’s nothing in the New Testament about Jesus getting together for Christmas with His parents and relatives.  I’ve read the New Testament and it’s not there!”

And you’d be right.  Jesus and His family didn’t celebrate Christmas per se.

But in another sense, they did.

Let me share with you five truisms about the way that Jesus dealt with family gatherings:

First, Jesus had an unusual family.

Think about this: Jesus’ biological father wasn’t Joseph or even God the Father but the Holy Spirit.  This means that Jesus’ real father was someone He didn’t see on earth until His baptism at age thirty when the Spirit appeared like a dove.  (I wonder if Jesus said to Himself, “That’s the Spirit” or “That’s my biological father” when He saw the dove.)

I’m not sure when Jesus learned the truth about His “father of origin” but this could make a boy feel either special or strange.  To the people in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus was just an ordinary boy who lacked any special wisdom or powers (Matthew 13:55-56).

If you think you have an unusual family – especially during the Christmas season – don’t sweat it.  You’re in excellent company.

Second, Jesus had half-brothers and sisters.

Matthew tells us that Jesus was Mary’s firstborn child (Luke 2:7) and that Jesus had four half-brothers and at least two half-sisters (Matthew 13:55-56).  So Joseph and Mary had at least seven children, but while Mary was the biological mother of all seven, Joseph was the biological father of only six, Jesus excluded.

So Jesus knows what it’s like to live with brothers or sisters who have different parents, and He knows what it’s like to be a part of a large family.  And when those nine people sat around the table to eat, there had to be some friction at times.

If you have step-siblings or half-siblings -and you don’t understand them, and they don’t understand you – relax.  Jesus gets it.  But you may be surprised to learn that:

Third, Jesus celebrated holidays with His family.

In Jesus’ day, the Jews celebrated three holidays: Pentecost, Tabernacles, and Passover.  As each feast drew near, Jewish families from all over the ancient world formed caravans and streamed into Jerusalem, especially for Passover.

Dr. Luke tells us in Luke 2:41-52 that when Jesus was twelve, His family traveled from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast.  On the way home, Jesus vanished, and His parents felt that sense of panic when a parent misplaces a child. (Of course, in their case, it was even worse because they had lost the Messiah!)

Speaking of Joseph and Mary, Luke writes, “Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day.  Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends” (Luke 2:44).  They expected to find Jesus hanging out with “relatives and friends” at this Passover celebration, so He probably spent time with them at other Passovers and other holidays as well.  You say, “Yes, Jim, but they didn’t celebrate Christmas together.”

Or did they?  Most likely:

Fourth, Jesus may have celebrated His birthday with family.

As far as I can tell, there is only one birthday mentioned in the New Testament, and that’s the birthday of the wicked King Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great who was king when Jesus was born.

Matthew 14:6 refers to Herod’s birthday and how the king ended up giving the head of John the Baptist on a platter to Salome, a young woman who danced in the king’s presence.

However, kings weren’t the only people who celebrated birthdays in ancient times. If Jesus’ family celebrated His birthday in some fashion every year – and they had to mark His age so they undoubtedly knew the date – family and friends may have been invited over, just like we do in our day.

Today we refer to Christmas as Jesus’ birthday.  Back then, Jesus’ birthday wasn’t called Christmas, but I’m sure family gathered together to celebrate His birth, which means they celebrated Christmas without knowing it.

Can you imagine celebrating Christmas with Jesus right there in the room?

When our kids were small, a man in our church named Earl loaned me his video camera.  Earl received the camera as a gift and didn’t know what to do with it, so he asked if I wanted to use it.  Video cameras used to be fairly large and used VHS tapes.

I captured our daughter Sarah’s seventh birthday on video, and whenever our family wants a laugh, we play the tape back.

Since I believe that God videotaped all the important events of the Bible – and even some of the ones not mentioned – it is possible that someday, we’ll be able to watch one of Jesus’ birthday parties, kind of like a pre-Christmas Christmas.

Finally, Jesus’ family thought He was crazy.

When I was in seminary, I took a class in counseling, and our professor told us that Jesus was the only normal person who ever lived.  That means that Jesus is the norm for human living.  He lived the way God intended us to live.  Since He’s the norm, the more we’re like Him, the more normal we are, and the less we’re like Him, the less normal we are.

However, our family members are usually convinced that they are normal and that everyone else in the family is abnormal.  This even happened in Jesus’ family.

Mark tells us about a time early in Jesus’ ministry when He was working non-stop.  He wasn’t eating or sleeping and it concerned Jesus’ family to the point they concluded, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).

When Mary and His brothers arrived to take Him back home, Jesus resisted them, claiming that He was now the leader of a new spiritual family.  Jesus’ family thought He was crazy, but He implies here that they were the ones who lacked an understanding of spiritual reality.

As you celebrate Christmas this month, remember that Jesus Himself had an unusual family, had half-brothers and sisters, celebrated holidays with His family, probably celebrated His own birthday with loved ones, and had a family who on one occasion thought that He was the abnormal One.

If Jesus could survive family during the holidays, so can you!


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