“We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are,” says the Talmud, the collection of Jewish oral tradition that interprets the Torah.
We Christians don’t tell the Nativity story as it is. We tell it as we are. Take our crèche: The figures are all there—the Holy Family, the animals, the angels and the Magi. But this isn’t the story told in the Gospels. It’s ours. Luke has no star, no Magi. Mark has no Christmas story at all, nor does John. Matthew, alone, gives us Epiphany.
But Matthew’s Epiphany isn’t ours either. Matthew tells a tale we never include. Where are Rachel and Jeremiah, King Herod and the missing children of Bethlehem in our account? Where are the hastily tied bundles of a family about to flee for their lives?
None of these belong to the tableau in our memory or the crèche on our table. But Matthew gives them the entirety of Chapter 2. Most of Matthew’s Christmas story is, in fact, his Epiphany story.
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