How Does the Christmas Story Relate to Us in 2020? 

Dear family,
Enclosed find a study I did for a group on Saturday I belong to. I thought others might be blessed by it and want to participate or share with others. There are no right or wrong answers. It is intended to get us thinking about the true meaning of Christmas for each one of us today. Hope you all enjoy and feel free to share and discuss with others all that is shared here. Comments always welcomed
Brother Lawrence Damien
1. The Annunciation
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her she will become pregnant and bear a child Jesus who would be great, the Son of the Highest and ruler and an inheritor of the throne of David and a ruler of an everlasting kingdom with no end. This would happen because the Holy Spirit would come upon Mary. She accepts and agrees to God's will for her.
"Mary showed complete trust in God by agreeing to be used as an instrument in his plan of salvation. She trusted him in spite of her nothingness because she knew he who is mighty could do great things in her and through her. Once she said "yes" to him, she never doubted. She was just a young woman, but she belonged to God and nothing nor anyone could separate her from him." – St. Teresa of Calcutta
Food For Thought
I doubt many people have had a visitation from an angel nor had one deliver a message to them in the flesh as Mary had. She was frightened at first then moved to trust and acceptance.
A. How would you react if something similar happened to you?
B. What do you think of Mary's reaction and response?
C. What does this story say to you and how does it help in your understanding of the Christmas story?

2. Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
Scripture: Luke 1:38-56
Mary upon hearing that her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant from the angel Gabriel she departs to go visit her.
"When the angel revealed his message to the Virgin Mary he gave her a sign to win her trust. He told her of the motherhood of an old and barren woman to show that God is able to do all that he wills." From a Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke by St. Ambrose, Bishop
Food For Thought
Mary has just had great news about a son she would be bearing. At first she is full of faith. Then perhaps she begins to wonder if it was really true? Could it possibly be? Whatever the reason she goes to visit Cousin Elizabeth meaning God is my oath or worshipper of God. Mary goes to see a woman whose oath is to God and who is also a worshipper of God. Elizabeth confirms what Gabriel told Mary and Mary responds with what has come to be known as the Magnificat or Song of Mary.
A. Where do you go first for advice? Others like psychics. Astrology, horoscopes, spouse, friends, something else or God?
B. What do we do when we get an answer especially if it's from God? Do we pout, complain, find fault with it or can we praise God for the answer as Mary did and trust him regardless?
C. How does this story help your understanding of the Christmas story and what might it be saying to you personally?
3. The Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and Jesus Birth
Scripture: Luke 2:1-7
There is a decree that everyone has to go to their ancestral home to be taxed. So Joseph and Mary though she was 9 months pregnant goes and travels from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Bethlehem means house of Bread. Thus Jesus the Living Bread (see John 6:51) is born in the House of Bread. The word inn used here could be a misnomer. There is a chance that when Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem the guest room was full so no room for more guests. However houses in this time were built on two levels and upper level where the family lived and a lower level where the animals were kept divided into two parts one where the animals were kept and a room where guests could stay if no room in the main part of the house. It would give privacy to the guests, be kept warm by the heat of the animals and could be comfortable. If this is the case then Mary would have privacy to give birth in and the women who would have been there would have been there to help with her delivery and getting back to health again.
Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem a distance of some 65 mile to Jerusalem and Bethlehem is 5 miles south of Jerusalem. The journey would have taken four or 5 days. Luke says it was because of a Roman ordered taxation requiring everyone to go to their ancestral home so they could be taxed. For Joseph that place was Bethlehem. This, according to Luke, occurred when Quirinius or Cyrenius was the Roman governor of Syria (Luke 2:2)
Josephus confirms that a general taxation did take place under Cyrenius. However Matthew says that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. On the other hand Cyrenius was only appointed governor when the Romans deposed Archelaus (Son of Herod the Great) in 60 CE. 
Jesus is believed to have been born in 6 or 5 BCE this census would have taken place some 11 or 12 years after the birth of Jesus. As long as Herod the Great was king of Judea, no Roman governor would have had the jurisdiction or authority to organize a census and general taxation at the time of Jesus' birth. Therefore it seems Luke was mistaken when giving this Roman census as the cause of Mary and Josephs journey. 
Whatever the case Joseph and Mary do eventually arrive in Bethlehem for Mary to give birth to Jesus among Joseph's family.
Food for Thought
So an interesting story. Was Luke wrong or does he have another reason for including it here? Does it affect the story making Luke's claim untruthful and a lie thus discrediting the story as a myth?
A. What do you think about this story? Does it matter why it is included here?
B. What reasons might Luke have for including it the way he does?
C. What do you take from this story and how does it affect your understanding of the Christmas story?
4. The Appearance of the Angels to the Shepherds and their Visitation to Meet Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus.
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20
Shepherds are watching their sheep at night. All of a sudden a host of Angels appear to them telling them of the birth of Jesus and proclaiming the news of peace on earth to people of good will. The shepherds leave their flocks in haste to go see what the angels had told them about and upon finding the Holy Family then go and tell everyone what they had seen. They also return praising and glorifying God for all they had seen and heard.
Why did the angels appear to the shepherds only first? Why not a whole bunch of people or to the religious leaders who were supposed to be looking for the birth of the Messiah? The shepherds were the outcasts and despised of Jesus day. They were looked upon as evil, thieves and people not to be trusted. Those who kept the temple sheep would come into town long enough to sell their sheep to the sellers for the temple sacrifices then leave and go back to their flocks. Thus the angels appear first to the outcasts and despised of society, the same people Jesus in his ministry would go and minister to.
Food For Thought
A. How does this story affect you? Are you or your church like the religious leaders of that time rejecting the outcasts and marginalized or like inclusive welcoming all?
B. How do you see your church as a place for the saints to come and be blessed or as a hospital for the hurt, wounded and dying to come find healing, welcoming and Jesus?
C. What do you get from this story and how does if affect your understanding of the Christmas Story and how it applies to us now?
As we have looked at the Christmas story we have seen it from several different views and discussed it from various angles. May we, during this Advent and Christmas season, approach it with new understanding as to what it is about and how it applies to each of us.
Merry Christmas to everyone
Brother Lawrence Damien