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!

An interview to start us off

Wow!  I did not expect the enthusiastic response to this idea!  Thank you for your comments here, and at the church.  I’ve heard many of you have acquired the book and are starting to read and are waiting for more info from me …

So here is a teaser to get you going, an interview done with John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, writers of The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Birth.


And here is a tentative schedule of upcoming posts on the book itself:

Throughout Advent, I aim to update Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Each day I’ll deal with a chapter of the book, as outlined below:

Part 1: Parable, Overture and Context

  • Sunday December 3: The Stories of the First Christmas
  • Tuesday December 5: Parables as Overtures
  • Thursday December 7: The Context of the Christmas Stories

Part 2: Genealogy, Conception, and Birth

  • Sunday December 10: Genealogy as Destiny
  • Tuesday December 12: An Angel Comes to Mary
  • Thursday December 14: In David’s City of Bethlehem

Part 3: Light, Fulfillment, and Joy

  • Sunday December 17: Light Against the Darkness
  • Tuesday December 19: Jesus as the Fulfillment of Prophecy
  • Thursday December 21: Joy to the World

Appendix 3: Thursday December 28:   Jesus’s Coming-of-Age in Luke

Feel free to post any initial responses here, and I’ll post another introductory post next Tuesday, November 28th.