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DECEMBER 2004
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From the Editor -
Patricia Sheets
We are the Church
Featured Article
ChurchThe True Story of Christmas
By Patricia Sheets

Churches across the Country are gearing up for the most popular Christian holiday of the year. Sanctuaries are beautifully decorated with garlands and ribbon, nativities have been carefully placed on church lawns, and the procession of plays and special services will soon commence.

Our church has taken a somewhat different approach to Christmas. This yearís drama is about a man who attempts suicide and the star of the play is a butterfly. Itís the kind of thing you must see to understand. Sure, we could have gone with the traditional baby in a manger story, but we were afraid no one would believe it. After all, it does seem to change from one telling to the next and we didnít want to add to the confusion.

I first became aware of the mixed message of Christmas when I invited some neighbors to attend a Christmas play at my former church. The family was new to the area, so I thought the play would be a good way to introduce them to the community.
Unlocking the Treasure
By Lucian Thompson

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40 KJV)

I want to zero in on this verse and see if we canít see a little Life Application here Ė a learning for life, if you will.

Ever since I was called into ministry, I have been asking God to show me what He wants me to do and how to do it.

I certainly know I was called to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the entire Word of God, and the perfecting of the saints. I could throw a lot of the usual clergy mumbo-jumbo in here, but I wonít.

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Church
On the evening of the play, both Mom and Dad fell ill, I suspect from "chickened-out", that strange disease that strikes many people when they realize they are entering unfamiliar territory, especially the church. Their four-year-old daughter, however, was more than anxious to accompany me, so off we went.

As we drove to the play, I asked Mandy where she had previously attended church. "On TV," was her response.

"Oh. You must have been at a large church with a televised service," I said.

"No. We just watch Church TV sometimes. I donít like it much, but the cartoons donít come on Ďtil it goes off. I watch it and eat cereal until Scooby-Doo comes on."

Realizing Mandy had no church background, I wanted to make her first experience memorable. When we arrived, I introduced her to some of the church members, including "Mr. Bob", who was especially fond of children. Bob took her on stage and showed her the props and explained that he would be "Joseph" in the play. Mandy, like most kids, took an instant liking to "Mr. Bob", especially when he told her Santa would be coming for a visit after the play.

Mandy and I finally settled into the third row and the drama began. She was mesmerized by the music, costumes and lights. She waved wildly at her new friend, Mr. Bob, as he said his lines. When the play was over, we went for refreshments in the church social hall where Santa himself came and gave gifts to each of the children. Mandy returned home that evening with a new perspective on Christmas.

The next day I heard a knock at my door and found Mandy and her mother standing on my porch. I invited them in, assuming Mandyís mom had come to thank me for the wonderful evening her daughter experienced. Maybe Mandy had told her the story of Christmas and sparked her interest, maybe she wanted to find out more, maybe I would be the one to lead her to Christ!

I smiled and said, "What can I do for you?"

"Well, I just have a few questions about your church, and Christmas," Mandyís mom said shyly.

"Ask me anything," I said, ready to share everything I knew.

"I donít know much about the Bible. I donít go to church, but, well, ah, IÖ" Mandyís mom stammered, obviously afraid to speak whatever was on her mind.

"Go ahead, honey, itís okay to ask," I assured her.

"Okay. Iíd like to know more about Bob-Joseph and Marcie. I donít remember ever hearing about them before. And the German shepherds, and the fox Ö all thatís new to me. Now, Iím an open-minded person, but I never suspected Baptists taught about Frankenstein. Actually, I didnít even know he was in the Bible!"

The smug, "Iím a Christian so I know everything" look dropped from my face as quickly as my heart sank to my knees. "I donít know what youíre talking about. Mandy didnít hear those things at my church!"

Mandy interrupted, "Yes, I did! It was all in the Christmas play!"

Mandy proceeded to tell her version of what she had seen the night before.

"A long, long time ago, an angel named Bob-Joseph and his unmarried wife named Marcie went on a trip. They were going to register Ö I think it was for the draft. Santa Clause was afraid they might get lost, so he got in his sleigh and hung a big star in the sky, Ďcause Rudolphís nose wasnít bright enough. Bob-Joseph found a hotel. But the mean innkeeper threw them out Ďcause they had a donkey. The innkeeper didnít like animals. He made them sleep in the barn, but that was okay, Ďcause Baby Jesus wanted a puppy for Christmas.

When Baby Jesus was born, he couldnít talk, Ďcause no crying he made, but he didnít care. He had two dads, one named God who is God and one named Bob-Joseph, who was an angel. He figured either one of them could make him talk later, and babies donít need to talk, anyway.

An angel of the Lord saw some German Shepherds watching a fox by night, so he went down to scare them. They were sore and afraid, but the angel said, "Just kidding!" and told them to go see Baby Jesus.

When the shepherds got there, some kings had already beat them to the farm. The kings were bad guys and tried to scare Baby Jesus with Gold, Frankenstein, and Myrtle. I donít know what Gold looks like, but Frankenstein is a monster and Myrtle is a mean girl in my class that kicks me.

The German Shepherds chased the bad kings away, so Bob-Joseph and Marcie let Baby Jesus keep all the German Shepherds, since he wanted a puppy for Christmas, anyway. And they all lived happily ever after, Ďcept for the donkey. He was mad Ďcause the wicked innkeeper named Harold wouldnít let him swim in the pool."

As I watched Mandy proudly tell her story of Christmas, I realized for the first time how grossly negligent the church has been in telling the true story of Christís birth. The production Mandy saw was full of fallacies, misconceptions and myths added over the years to enhance the story to suit our needs.

Consider, for example, that an innkeeper is not mentioned in the scripture. We are simply told, "She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger-there was no room for them to stay in the inn." (Luke 2:7 GNB) There are other scripture referenced to Jesusí birth in the stable, but nowhere is an innkeeper mentioned.

Another misconception is that there were three kings who visited Jesus. The Scripture tells us, "And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:11 NKJ). We know there were three gifts, but it is only our assumption that there were three kings.

Perhaps the most common falsehood is that the three wise men, or kings, were present shortly after the birth of Jesus. This same passage tells us that the kings visited Jesus at the "house", not the stable, and that Jesus was a young Child, not a baby, when they arrived.

Fortunately, I was able to explain the story of Christmas to Mandy and her mom. I wonder, however, how many people have attended a holiday service and left with only a fabrication of what happened on that holy night so long ago. We cannot enhance or alter the history of our Lord. As a church, we have a responsibility to spread the beautiful story of Jesusí birth in its original, uncut version.

Oh, and one more thing. About that guy in the red suit; I wouldnít touch that one with a ten foot candy cane, but I havenít seen him or his reindeer mentioned in any of the Gospels!

Merry Christmas!
Pat Sheets is a freelance writer with an offbeat sense of humor. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with the three men in her life: Jack, her husband, is a pastor. Duncan and Barkley are pound-saved mutts but none-the-less, her "boys".