Chapter 1

Chapter One: The Stories of the First Christmas, Pages 1-24

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this introductory chapter.  When I read chapter 1 this past summer, I kept pestering my spouse by reading out loud, and stopping to complain about the trouble with Christmas pageants.  In fact, when I proposed this read-along, I had only read the first and second chapters.  But they caught my attention and I have not regretted reading this book!

I really liked how Borg and Crossan used the pageant model to explore and contrast the two Gospel accounts of the Nativity narrative.  I thought that walking all the way through Matthew and then through the themes and overview of Luke was a good way to start the book

I found the conclusion of the chapter, in The Richness of Two Stories very helpful for me.  I have not been comfortable with the “harmonizing” method (page 22) of dealing with the two stories,  “One common filter is ‘harmonizing’ them, either by combining them into one story or preferring one version and ignoring contradictions from the other” (22).   I agree that we are richer when we read the two gospels as separate.  I have tried to explore how to write a Christmas pageant that does not attempt to “harmonize.”  I would love to come up with a script that paralleled the two gospels and provides opportunities for us to better understand the contexts and literary devices used.

I think, reading these as two separate stories written for two separate communities is important and valuable and can enhance our faith.  Truth be told, I think I have to read more to better articulate how that helps our faith in real and practical ways.

If you aren’t reading the book along with me this Advent, read Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, and spend some time noticing the differences between the two texts. (I recommend the NRSV, at


Questions for Reflection:

  • Did this reminder of the biblical texts come as a surprise to you?  What was most surprising?
  • Are you already concerned that this is pushing your boundaries around the Nativity story?
  • How does this reading of the two scriptures intersect with your most important traditions and rituals?
  • So far, what action is this calling you to?
  • Please comment below, or send me an email.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reflections!

2 thoughts on “Chapter 1

  1. I am reading this book in sunny Mexico, where the Christmas decorations-including bucolic scenes of sleighs in the snow-are proof of much of what the authors are talking about. I am mostly struck by their focus on what the stories mean and what they are trying to tell us rather than on what actually happened (or didn’t). But I feel a bit weighed down by their extensive historical detail as it seems to take away from the delving in to meaning that I would like to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The topics they write about weren’t a surprise to me now, but they certainly would have been to me when I was a child. I only received the harmonized version of the Christmas story back then. Looking at the stories the way they do is helpful to me – the traditional view is pretty hard to cling to these days. At least for me.
    As far as action goes, when I teach children I mention the two stories so that the next generation can grow up with that as a foundation. They’ll have less work to do later on. I hope it will be easier for them to think about what the stories mean rather than what the stories are.

    Liked by 1 person

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