The First Christmas Story

[Transcript of the ‘You Are There’ video blog. Recorded Augustus 14, 39AD]

[Voice over] “Welcome to the ‘You Are There’ video blog. The year is 39AD; the location, a Roman tavern outside the city of Jerusalem. A general meeting of the Friends of Jesus is about to start–and You Are There.”

[Reporter] “Good evening. I am Warren Carson reporting. Our microphones are set up inside and I am waiting outside the tavern for the members to arrive. . . . I see someone arriving now. . . . . Excuse me sir, you are the first to arrive. Would you mind telling me your name?”

“Certainly. My name is Simeon Peter, I am the leader of the Friends of Jesus.”

“What is this evening’s meeting about?”

“We have been doing a membership drive with only limited success. This evening, we will discuss ways to increase our membership.”

“Thank you.”

[Simeon Peter goes inside as other members arrive.]

[Reporter] “I see more members have arrived. Let’s go inside.”

[Simeon Peter and a few other members sit on a bench against the far wall. Some members are sitting on the floor while others are standing against the wall.]

[Reporter.] “Simeon Peter is standing up. Let’s listen to what he is saying.”

“I want to thank everybody for coming out this evening. . . . The first order of business is to announce the results of the referendum on changing our name. I am pleased to announce that the ‘’’Friends of Jesus’ will now be known as ‘Followers of Christ’ or Christians.”

[There is general excitement about the name change.]

Simeon Peter goes on, “As you know, our membership drive wasn’t very successful. After that unfortunate incident at Calvary, many of our members lost faith. Some of them joining the Essenes. . . . I would like to thank Thomas and Andrew for handling the situation. Andrew, I loved your slogan ‘I’ll be back’. . . . It gave us a real boost. . . . We have a good story full of miracles, water to wine, raising the dead–great stuff. Now we need a good backstory. Where did He come from, that sort of thing. . . . Matthew, you said you have some ideas about that.”

[A young man sitting at the end of the bench stands.]

“Thank you Peter. . . . I see a few new members here this evening. For those who don’t know me, I write a column in the ‘Psalm and Sand’ tabloid writing on biblical stories. Simeon Peter has asked me to develop a story around Jesus’ birth. . . . Many of you will know traditionally the Messiah will come from the House of David. I created a genealogy showing that Joseph is from the house of David, which would apply to his son. I ran into one slight problem. The prophet Micah said that the Messiah would be born in Beth-lehem. . . . Luke, I think you had Mary pregnant in Galilee in one of your articles.”

[A man sitting on the floor nods his head.]

“While Micah was only a minor prophet, if we want Jesus to be fully accepted as the Messiah, it would help to say He was born in Beth-lehem. . . . I was thinking near the end of her pregnancy, Mary and Joseph could be forced to make a trip to Beth-lehem. I don’t know the reason for the trip yet, but I will blame the Romans. Maybe they need to pay their taxes. Who knows. [General laughter.] Then, well, you know how the Essenes are always preaching poverty. I am going to say they couldn’t get a room at the inn, so He was born in the stable. That will give Him the humble beginnings everyone wants.”

[General mutterings of approval.]

“Finally, I am going to say there was a comet in the sky. That will scare the hell out of Herod and Caligula.”

[There is a large round of applause. Matthew sits and Simeon Peter stands.]

“Thank you Matthew. It sounds like you have this well-in-hand. You can fill in the details later. . . . Paul, I can see you smiling. Do you want to add something?”

[A man standing against the back wall steps forward.]

“Could we not mention Jesus was Joseph’s son? The Greeks love stories of the Gods coming down and getting a woman pregnant. Can we say Mary was made pregnant by HaShem?” 

[Paul has been writing to the Corinthians in southern Greece and is eager to make conversions there.]

[Reporter.] “HaShem is the preferred way of referring to God.”

[Everyone looks at Nicodemus, a Pharisee and the expert on biblical law. He stands.]

“No, you can’t have HaShem coming down to make her pregnant. That would alienate too many people. You could, however, say she was made pregnant by the ‘Spirit of the Lord’. Also have to say that Mary and Joseph are betrothed and that she is still a virgin. . . . There is a line in Isaiah that you might want to use, ‘Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son’. The Hebrew word for a young woman can also mean a virgin. So, you could interpret it as ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son’.”

[Nicodemus sits back down and everyone looks at Matthew.]

“Thank you Nicodemus. I could finish the genealogy with something like ‘Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ’. Then add something like ‘before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit’. I like your idea of the virgin birth, I’ll use that as well. [Turning to Paul] Is that what you had in mind?”

Paul grins. “I love it. The Greeks are going to eat that up.”

Simeon Peter says, “Now we need a date. . . . Any ideas? . . . Yes, Jude.”

[Jude, who is sitting on the floor, stands up so everyone can see him.]

“How about December 25th, the winter solstice? It is already a Roman festival. We could take it over.”

Simeon Peter, who is still standing, says “I like it. I like the symbolism–out with the old, in with the new. Matthew, does that work for you?”

[He nods in agreement.]

Simeon Peter continues,  “Are there any objections?. . . Hearing no objections, December 25th will be Jesus’s official birthday. Matthew, can you have the full story ready for our next meeting? . . . Unless someone has something else to discuss, I will close the meeting.”

[Reporter] “For those of you confused by the winter solstice being on December 25th instead of December 21st, they are using the Julian calendar. When the church switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the solstice fell on December 21st. But the church decided to keep December 25th as the official birthdate. . . . I am going to see if we can talk to Simeon Peter before he leaves.”

[The reporter is standing with Simeon Peter.]

“The meeting went well. I see you are trying to appeal to a wider audience?”

“Yes. While we want to attract as many Jews as possible, He did not want His teaching restricted to one group. I will leave for Rome in two months to spearhead our efforts there.”

“Thank you.”

[Simeon Peter leaves.]

[Reporter] “The official story on the birth of Jesus, and You Are There.”

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