In an earlier post, I suggested that Joseph and Mary likely stayed with relatives in Bethlehem. The house they stayed in was full. When the baby arrived, there was no room for them in the guest room. So, they laid the baby in the manger. Why was the house so full?
Remember, the reason that they were travelling to Bethlehem was because Caesar Augustus had called for a census.
Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. (ESV)
The census was likely for the purposes of taxation but it required Joseph to return to his ancestral home, Bethlehem. If Joseph must travel to his ancestral home, then isn’t it likely that many people had to travel. In other words, Joseph and Mary were not likely travelling alone. They were probably a part of a caravan which would include other relatives and neighbors from Galilee.
What did they talk about on the way? Did they complain about Rome? Did they argue over the Temple? Did they share their Messianic theories? Did they tell stories about Judas Maccabeus? Did the make-up songs and tell jokes about Herod?
When they arrived in Bethlehem, they would stay with family just as many of us do when we go home for Christmas or Thanksgiving. The first Christmas may have been similar to many of our own Christmas celebrations. The host would be both excited to see long missed relatives and yet wondering where everyone was going to sleep and how everyone was going to be fed. And what are we going to do when Joseph’s wife, what’s her name again, gives birth?
Now, neither Luke or Matthew give us about details about Jesus extended family. They either knew nothing about these details which is quite likely and/or it was not seen as pertinent to their narrative. Yet, if we know anything about the holy family line that leads from Abraham to Jesus, then we know it is what we now refer to as dysfunctional.
So, was Joseph’s family one that accepted Mary with open arms despite the rumors surrounding her pregnancy? Was it openly know? If so, was it a topic of conversation or a taboo subject? Were they a family that wore their brokenness out in the open or covered themselves in a veneer of righteousness? Were they a mixed bag?
Regardless of what Joseph’s family was like, Luke seems to indicate that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were surrounded by family. They were not alone in a barn until some Shepherd’s wandered in. Jesus was born into a human family with all the human problems that families have had from time immemorial.
Next time, I will look at how Matthew highlights some of this dysfunctionality in Jesus’s family line and how these same stories foreshadow that Jesus family is ultimately larger than many of his relatives imagined.
Related Posts: Advent, Christmas and the Nativity