Our Picture of Christmas Eve

This week's Saturday Night Live had a great sketch about Christmas Eve (watch it here). In the sketch they imagine what it would be like for a teenage Mary to give birth in a barn. It's silliness but it rattles the gilded image that we carry of Christmas Eve.

At one point in the sketch Mary (played by Emma Stone) says: "When I found out I was going to give birth to the Savior I guess I just assumed it was gonna be ... nicer."

The birth narratives in the Gospels are full of gritty detail. Over time we have compressed and cleaned the story to fit our cultural values and presuppositions. We look at the Christmas story and see ourselves reflected back in them.

  • Who was present at Jesus' birth?
  • How old were Mary and Joseph?
  • How many people were in their caravan to Bethlehem?
  • What role did poverty have in Joseph and Mary's Christmas experience?
  • What were Mary's parents and aunts/uncles doing when she went to visit Elizabeth or travelled with her fiancĂ© to Bethlehem? 
  • Why don't the narratives in Matthew and Luke line up easily? Why don't Mark and John contain birth narratives?
  • How did Matthew and Luke get this information?
We don't have concrete biblical answers to any of these questions, but we answer them whenever we picture the Christmas story.

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