For my first spiritual classroom with the kids, I decided to start with something they were already extremely familiar with: Christmas. While I had talked briefly about the various meanings of the holiday in the past, I decided we would look at 3 different perspectives:
- The Bible nativity according to St. Luke
- An alternative Christian nativity story
- The First Yule, the pagan story of the birth of the Sun King
The Biblical Perspective
My bible is the Holy Bible: From the Ancient Eastern Text: George M. Lamsa’s Translation From the Aramaic of the Peshitta Revised Edition by Lamsa, George M. , which is a fairly academic translation that I like. Nevertheless, the text is still a bit hard for a 6- and an 8-year-old kid to follow, so I googled to find a more kid-friendly version of the nativity as told in the book of St. Luke.
The Other Bible
The other Bible I own is The Other Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone. It includes a number of other texts that are contemporary with the Bible but not actually included in it, because they were considered blasphemous, or what have you. In it is a A Latin Infancy Gospel: The Birth of Jesus, from the Christian Apocrypha. This is a medieval document, and the exact source(s) is unknown. All of the text in this book is pretty difficult, so here is a more kid-friendly summary of this short text:
A girl came a with a birthing chair, and she stopped when she saw Joseph and Mary.
“Child, where are you going with that chair?” asked Joseph.
She said, “My mistress sent me here because she was summoned to help with an unusual birth, and that a girl would give birth for the first time. So she sent me ahead with the chair.”
Joseph saw that the midwife was coming, and he greeted her and said that he sought a Hebrew midwife. The midwife asked, “Who is the young woman who is going to give birth in this cave?”
Joseph answered, “Mary, who was promised to me, who was raised in the Lord’s Temple.”
The midwife said, “She is not your wife?”
Joseph replied, “She was promised to me, but was made pregnant by the Holy Spirit.”
The midwife said, “Is this true?”
Joseph said, “Come and see.”
They went to the cave, and Joseph invited her in, but the midwife was afraid of the great light that shone in the cave. The light stayed all day and through the night.
Joseph said, “Mary, I have brought Zachel, a midwife. She is afraid to enter the cave.” Mary smiled, and Joseph ordered the midwife to attend her.
After many hours, the midwife cried, “Lord, great God, have mercy, because I have never seen or heard or dreamt of such a thing, that a baby could be born without blood or pain. This girl conceived as a virgin, gave birth as a virgin, and remained a virgin after birth.”
The midwife later related the events to Symeon, Joseph’s son:
“When I saw her, Mary held her head, listening to Heaven, and was very still. I asked her if she felt any pain, but she said nothing. As it came to be time for the birth, everything was silent. The winds stopped, and there was no motion in the trees. You couldn’t hear the sound of water, and the streams did not flow. The earth itself stopped turning, and time stopped. Everything was silent, waiting.
“When the baby was born, the light came forth, and Mary worshiped the child, who shone bright and beautiful like the sun. He appeared as peace, soothing the whole world. I heard the voices of invisible beings, who said, ‘Amen.’ The light of the child obscured the light of the sun, and the cave was filled with bright light and a sweet smell.
“I was amazed, but after a while, the light shrank, and the baby looked just like any other child. I touched him and lifted him, and he had no weight. He also did not have any mark or blemish on him. He did not cry as newborn children often do. While I held him, he laughed at me and looked at me intently. Suddenly a great light came forth from his eyes like a great flash of lightning.”
The First Yule (A Wiccan Tale)
Christmas exists because of the pagan festival Yule, which marks the winter solstice and the birth of the Sun King. Any balanced study of Christmas should be sure to include this perspective.
These stories raised a number of questions, including whether angels could actually talk to people. I explained that they could, although it might not look like they were standing next you and physically talking. I taught the children a simple meditation to learn to talk with angels and light beings, which I will share in a later blog.
Other good questions to ask include:
- What are the similarities among these stories?
- What are the differences?
- Can there be multiple ways of telling a story? If so, can there be one that is more “correct” than another? Does it matter?
- Which story did you like the best, and why?