Many of us know the romanticized version of the Christmas story: Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem to humble parents, where three wise men came bearing precious gifts and worshipped the baby Jesus. Unfortunately, most of our beliefs concerning the birth of the Messiah come from greeting cards and TV holiday specials. It’s what I call: ‘Greeting Card Theology’. Although this may make for good television, Scripture gives us a much greater version. It also gives us a better understanding of what it means to be a family.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus were controversial to say the least. Mary and Joseph were betrothed when Mary told Joseph she was pregnant. The meaning of being ‘betrothed’ is foreign in our modern culture. Being betrothed was a much stronger commitment than a simple engagement. It was one that required a writ of divorce to break.

It was during their betrothal when Mary went to Joseph and told him that she was pregnant.  I can imagine this caused Joseph to have moments of doubt and embarrassment, since he was not sexually active with Mary. We’re told that Joseph thought about leaving her, but after God spoke to him in a dream, he chose to believe Mary. I’m sure that Joseph’s friends questioned his decision to stay with his pregnant fiancée. Yet he stood by her. Joseph fought through a battle of scorn and ridicule but believed in God. He believed the child Mary carried was God’s son and accepted God’s call for him to care for both Mary and Jesus.

Can you imagine what it was like when this family sat down at the dinner table? The kids sitting around that table may have known that Jesus didn’t have the same mom and dad as them. Joseph sat at that table knowing that he was not Jesus’ biological father. Even so, I believe that Joseph thought of Jesus as much a part of his family as his biological children. This shows us that fatherhood is much more than simply fathering a child. It involves setting a godly example for our children and blessing them just as our Heavenly Father has blessed us.

I could go on about how Scripture proves that Jesus was not born in winter, and that the wise men (many more than three) did not find Jesus as a newborn baby in the manger. But that would not change your traditions of Christmas Trees, singing carols, or exchanging gifts.

The Gospel of John Chapter 10 is often referred to as the Good Shepherd Scripture. However, right in the middle of this chapter in verses 22 and 23 the writer notes: “Then came the Feast of Dedication (Chanukah) at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.”

My wife and I have a blended family of yours, mine, and ours. I tend to follow the Jewish traditions of Chanukah, while my wife and our children still enjoy the Christmas traditions. So we decided to combine the two and celebrate what we call: “Chanumas”.

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On the first night of “Chanumas” we invite our grandchildren over and I recite the story of the Maccabees and the story of the first Chanukah. Before lighting the first candle on the Chanukah menorah I recite the blessing:  “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season. We kindle these lights for the miracles and wonders, for the redemption you performed, and for the battles which you won for our forefathers in those days at this season. During all eight days of Chanukah these lights are sacred and we are not to make ordinary use of them, but only to look at them in order to remember and give thanks and praise to your great name – for your miracles, your wonders, and your salvation you made available to us through your son, Yeshua Ha ’Mashiach.”

After lighting the Chanukah menorah, we enjoy sitting in the glow, recalling the miracles of yesterday and today. Afterward, we enjoy watching the grandchildren open their “Chanumas” gifts and listening to the shrieks of joy as they play Dreidel for chocolate coins, called gelt.  SAM_1393

“Chanumas” does not follow Jewish or Christian tradition. “Chanumas”  is not about Scriptural  correctness. It’s about family. It’s about who I am as a father. Often, we form our impression of who God is by who our earthly father was. But that impression could be just as misleading as our ‘Greeting Card Theology’. Some of us may have had great dads; but some of us not so great. And some of us may have had horrible dads that caused us to have a negative impression about God. But that can be repaired. Some of you may have never received an encouraging word from your father. You may have known only criticism and even molestation. God can heal that too. Malachi 4:6 says, speaking of the Lord, “…And He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…”  The heart of the Christmas season is not about when Jesus was born but that he came to earth to die for our sins. While he was in our midst he touched us with healing; he spoke words of encouragement and affirmation over those who hadn’t heard them. People like Matthew the tax collector, the man who was born blind, the Samaritan woman who’d been married five times, the emotionally unstable Peter, and the woman who was caught in adultery.

Somehow I think that Joseph, whose wife became pregnant before they were married, may have had some influence on the young Jesus and was the vehicle that God used to help bring His blessing to the world. Now, God wants us to be vehicles of blessing through touch and through words. Like Joseph, God might be calling you to an untraditional path of Fatherhood. Maybe you and your spouse have created a blended family like ours. Our idea of how we want life to go is not always God’s plan for our life. God’s plan is purposeful and perfect.

During this Christmas season I encourage you to be the father your children need you to be, whether biological or other. Use Joseph as your example. God has called you to care for your family. And fulfilling this calling is the highest of all achievements.

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Comments
  1. Jim Goodman says:

    Way interesting idea 🙂

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