Today in our town some will spend the day after Christmas resting any way they can. Others will be clearing out the wrapping paper and trying to find the instructions on setting up another electronic toy. Being new films open on Fridays a few might take in a movie. Some might sleep through a boring bowl game.
A large group of citizens go back to work the day after Christmas. School kids will continue their vacation.
While I was sharing these thoughts about the day after Christmas with Uncle Greggo (that is not his real name nor is he my uncle) he ask why I was so ignorant on the day after the first Christmas?
I told Uncle (remember, he was someone’s uncle but not mine, unless possibly a distant uncle. Everybody just called him that.) Greggo (also remember that is not his real name, but it is the one he got when he worked on coastal steamers in South Asia.), I told Uncle Greggo I had not given much thought to what happened in far-off Bethlehem the day after the first Christmas.
Well, it seems, our world-traveled uncle, had given it considerable study. “Study,” was the word my grandmother Lillie (we called her Mammy) would use when something new came up. She would “study” ‘bout it a spell. She had just a few years of school, raised seven boys and two girls and could spell any word anyone could pronounce. She was also half-Cherokee but that is another story.
Uncle Greggo reminded me of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner and the way Coleridge presents him in the classic poem of the sea. “The Wedding-Guest is spell-bound by the eye of the old seafaring man, and constrained to hear his tale.”
I was not so much constrained as interested in anything my distant uncle might say on the days following the first Christmas.
Matthew, the former tax collector, and Luke, the doctor to Paul the missionary, are the only two gospel writers who include the birth of Jesus in their biographies. It would have been interesting if mother Mary had shared a few more details. No one knew the events better than she did. Luke does say that Mary “pondered these things in her heart,” but evidently didn’t share them with the good historian-physician. It was probably far too personal for her.
So, without any scriptural hints or historical evidence, we can consider all kinds of possibilities of the days following the first Christmas.
First, we know Jesus to be a toddler when the Wise Men came with their gifts. The Roman Census was over so Bethlehem was back to normal. Mary and Joseph had evidently moved into a house. Possibly stayed with relatives.
With all the to-do over the birth I am sure those excited shepherds would have kept them supplied with mutton and milk.
King Herod told the Wise Men to find the child and report back to him so he could honor this “new king.” Herod had no intention of honoring him, but to destroy him. Herod was a man of many conspiracies and crimes. It is not surprising he would kill all of Bethlehem’s baby boys under 2 years of age. (Matthew 2:13-23 tell this story of human efforts to frustrate the will of God.)
The New Testament has passages from the Old Testament related to this subject. Hosea, Jeremiah, and Isaiah are all quoted foretelling such events. Unfortunately the great Jewish historian, Josephus, is silent on what has come to be known as “The Slaughter of the Innocents.”
So from the meager bits Greggo and I gathered it is evident the Holy Family led a pretty normal life in Bethlehem and Egypt after Christmas (a term they never heard, nor anyone else for hundreds if years). The Inn keeper probably became a friendly neighbor after recognizing his rudeness when they first met. The angels were still near but only known by the parents. As we said the shepherd-farmers keep them supplied with good organic foodstuffs.
Even though sorting out the story line is difficult, Uncle Greggo and I agreed on this much: (1) The Christ child was no more welcome at his birth than he has been for centuries; (2) God spoke to Joseph to flee to Egypt and Joseph obeyed God. (3) Hence the light of the world was not extinguished; nor will it ever be snuffed out.
The gaps in the Jesus story were not important enough to be in scripture. What we have is all we need to know of God and to grow in his love and knowledge through the coming days and years.
Britt Towery writes Fridays on the Viewpoint page. His e-mail is bet@
suddenlink.net. More opinions appear online at www.britt-towery.blogspot.