Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

The Real Christmas Story

Posted by butalidnl on 24 December 2010

It was a cold day, and Joseph was entering Bethlehem together with his pregnant wife Mary. Joseph had some misgivings about Mary’s getting pregnant without him having any role in it, but he knew that if he denounced Mary it would meant she would be stoned to death, and he didn’t want that to happen.  Anyway, things were better this way – he would recognize the baby as his own, and the baby would be the heir to his title (if it were to be a son, that is).

Joseph was no ordinary carpenter from Nazareth; and the people in Bethlehem knew that. Joseph was the latest in the secret line of “Jewish Kings” who had gone underground when Alexander the Great took over Judea some hundreds of years back, and who still remained “secret” even under Roman rule. Herod, as with all of his predecessors, would like nothing better than to extinguish this secret line of Jewish Kings. The Jews knew that Herod, being of Greek/Macedonian descent, was an usurper to the Jewish crown; and that Joseph and his line would one day take over their rightful role.

But that was for the future. The family had arrived, and the thing that Joseph was now thinking about was that Mary was about to give birth; and that none of his relatives and friends in Bethlehem dared to openly host the “King of the Jews” and the birth of the next in line. He has become quite frustrated at the cowardly attitude of his relatives. He had chosen to have the child born in Bethlehem to further legitimize its claim to the throne; Mary had to give birth there if she had to do it in a cave.

Well, it wasn’t a cave after all. A distant cousin agreed to have them rest together with the animals under their house; but on the condition that in a few days they would leave. It would be something of a “credible deniability” for him; he can always say that Joseph and family never slept in their house. So, that was it: Mary gave birth (thankfully to a boy) while they were resting with the animals.

The birth of Joseph’s son (or at least that was the story that they put out),  became known throughout Bethlehem anyway (news travels fast in rural communities!). And it was the shepherds who said: “Here is born the heir to the Jewish crown, and the people in the poblacion of Bethlehem were pretending that they don’t know anything about it. We are shepherds like David our ancestor, and we don’t think this is right. We will pay the king a visit, and sing out to everyone the truth that the Jewish king is born. And to hell with Herod’s spies!To hell with the poblacion people who are too scared to admit it.”

After about two weeks, Joseph and Mary received a surprise visit from three wise men from the East.  They knew that their cover was blown. If outsiders knew that a royal heir was born, it would be only a matter of a (short) time before Herod would know it. So, they left for Egypt, to visit other relatives there, and to lie low for a while.

A couple of months later, Herod heard of the birth of the newest of the Jewish royal line, and that the family had reinforced their claim by having the boy born in Bethlehem. He knew that he had to kill this child. In order to make sure that he killed the child, Herod orders all infants in Bethlehem killed, from 0 to 2 years old. This was the massacre of the innocents. The family that owned the “manger” was not found out. It was an intelligence breakdown for Herod: he had no spies in Bethlehem at the time; and he had to resort to harsh blanket measures in an attempt to correct this.

But by this time, the family was safely in Egypt, with other relatives.

Well, we know how the rest of the story goes, sort of…

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