Every Christmas I preach the familiar story of Christ’s birth. Over the course of twenty years of doing that, I’ve come up with a list of questions the Bible simply doesn’t answer concerning the story. Here are seven of them. Don’t worry if you can’t answer these because no one can. This is just to get you to thinking in a fresh way about Christ’s birth.
Question #1: Exactly how did Joseph and the very pregnant Mary travel to Bethlehem? Did they walk? Did they both ride donkeys or camels? Did Joseph walk while Mary rode? Were they are part of a caravan that was traveling that way?
Question #2: Was Jesus born during the day or at night? I know, I know, the shepherds were watching over their flocks by night. But that’s only when the angel appeared to them and announced the birth. The way the story reads Mary gave birth shortly after she and Joseph arrived in town and found the local inn full. Well, they certainly wouldn’t have been traveling at night, would they? It’s probably best to guess that the couple arrived in town in the afternoon and she gave birth that night.
Question #3: How long was Mary in labor? Some births happen fairly quickly. Others drag on for hours. What was the case with Christ’s birth?
Question #4: Who delivered the baby Jesus? If we stay strictly with the Biblical account, the only candidate is Joseph. That would make him the very first person who ever saw God in human flesh, touched Him, and held Him. I like that idea. But did Joseph know anything about delivering babies and cutting umbilical cords? Or did someone (a doctor? a woman?) from the crowded town of Bethlehem deliver the baby?
Question #5: Exactly where was Jesus born there in Bethlehem? His first crib was a manger, and a manger is an animal’s feeding trough. So the birth must have taken place in a livestock pen. But what kind of pen was it? Was it a local cave? There is a famous cave in Bethlehem that purports to be the site. Or was it some kind of building, perhaps one that housed the animals of the travelers who were staying overnight at the inn?
Question #6: When the shepherds made “widely known” what they had seen that night, did any of the listeners go to the site and see the baby? The Bible doesn’t mention anyone doing so, but I kind of suspect that some folks did. I think that I’d have gone out of curiosity if nothing else.
Question #7: When did Jesus fully understand who He was and what He came to do? It’s hard to believe that He was lying there in that manger, looking around at Mary, Joseph, and those shepherds, and thinking to himself, “I came to die for you people.” What do little babies think about? I don’t know, I can’t remember. Some people point to the story from Luke 2:41-50 as conclusive proof that, at the very least, Jesus fully understood by the time He was 12. I don’t disagree with that, but it still leaves the exact time of His realization open for debate.
Okay, all you Bible students mull these questions over for a while and see what answers you think best fit. Like I said, there aren’t “right” or “wrong” answers here, at least not while we’re on this earth. I just wanted you to spend some time really pondering the reason for the season. Merry Christmas from the Mckinneys, and may we all give our lives unreservedly to that little baby who grew up, lived a sinless life, died on a cross for the sins of the human race, arose from the dead, ascended back to heaven, and now offers salvation to anyone who will believe in Him as Savior.