A Jumbo Shrimp Christmas (Part 4)

Earlier this year, I wrote and self-published my first book, “The Jumbo Shrimp Gospel.” The book is about the oxy-moronic nature of the kingdom of God. One of the chapters, “Supernaturally Ordinary,” looks at the birth of Jesus. “JSG” would make a great Christmas present! By one for yourself and one for that special someone. Click on the blue Lulu logo over to the right. Now, onto an excerpt from the book…

Plain Jane Messiah cont.

Like the place of Jesus’ birth, the circumstances of His birth look extraordinary to us.  His birth was, however, much more normal for the times than we think.  Contrary to our tacky Precious Moments nativity scenes and our drive-through live nativities, Jesus was probably born in someone’s home.  Since the guest room was already being used, Joseph and Mary adapted as best they could.  The lower level of many homes would serve as shelter for animals during the night, and would thus have a manger—a stone feed trough—which was Jesus’ first bed.[1]

Although some special arrangements had to be made, Jesus’ birth was, by first century standards in Palestine, ordinary.

Jesus’ first visitors weren’t who we would expect at the birth of a king.  Today, if a head-of-state has a child or a grandchild, they receive congratulations from other heads-of-state.  The first visitors aren’t the city trash men.  The puppet king who found out about Jesus’ birth, Herod the (not so) Great, didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet.  So who were the first people to hear the news and come see the newborn king?

Shepherds.

Dirty, filthy, smelly shepherds.

Because the Bible has so much shepherd imagery, we’ve cleaned up shepherding and made it sexy.  But in the first century, it was anything but.  Although shepherding was a large part of the economy in first century Palestine, it wasn’t a desirable job.  The ancient rabbis discouraged a career in shepherding:

A man should not teach his son to be an ass-driver or a camel-driver, or a barber or a sailor, or a herdsman or a shopkeeper, for their craft is the craft of robbers…[2]

Apparently, in ancient Israel small business start-ups, piracy, and shepherding weren’t careers that your parents or your middle school guidance counselors would encourage you to pursue.

Shepherds, as herdsmen, were social outcasts because their job made it difficult to stay ritually clean.  Today, the equivalent may be any career you see on the Discovery Channel show “Dirty Jobs” (how many parents dream of their kids growing up to be horse castrators or maggot farmers?).  Yet, in the upside-down kingdom of God, it was the outcasts—regular, hard working, ordinary people—who first received the good news of the birth of the King.

Ordinary parents.

Ordinary birth.

Ordinary visitors.

Ordinary circumstances.

Supernaturally ordinary Messiah.


[1] Moore, p. 53-54.  Moore makes a compelling case for the scenario I’ve mentioned.  The word that our modern English Bibles translate “inn” in Luke 2:7 can also be translated “guest room.” Inns, or hotels, were much more Roman than Jewish.  First century Jews were known for their hospitality.  The odds are very slim that a young couple, the wife being extremely pregnant, would have been turned away or sent to a stable.  Our Christmas plays and movies make it seem that Mary was in labor the very night they arrived in town.  The Bible simply says that while they were there, her pregnancy ended and she gave birth.  They could have been in Bethlehem for several days or more before Jesus was born.

[2] Black, p.66, quoting Kiddushin 4:14.

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About Aaron

Aaron is a follower of Jesus. He's married to his smokin' hot wife Laura and is the father of three adorable girls. He enjoys a robust cigar, a complex root beer, a good movie, writing, football, thought-provoking books, and rousing discussions about subjects you're not supposed to talk about (like theology and politics). Religious people irritate him (because he once was one). He's on a quest to find the perfect dry rub and sauce for ribs.
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