Our Editorial: Lessons of the Nativity

The Detroit News

The nativity story is an ancient tale with modern relevance, and a message that should resonate with people of all faiths, and of none. It speaks of loyalty, responsibility and community, and challenges us to be and do better.

The hero of this story is not necessarily the babe in the manger, though certainly the Christ child would become the most influential force in the world.

Rather, the stand-up guy was Joseph, espoused husband of Mary, mother of Jesus.

It is no less a miracle than the Virgin Birth that Joseph even made it into this script.

How many men, when told their fiancee was pregnant, and not by him but the Holy Spirit, would have not only stuck around to love and support her, but also accept an explanation that must have seemed crazy?

Joseph honored the commitment he had made to Mary. He stood by her side through a challenging and humiliating period for both of them. He believed her, and trusted her. And he raised her child.

Joseph was a man. And he stands in contrast to today’s often self-indulgent version of the species, which is too ready to shirk responsibility and run off in search of “happiness.” Forty-four percent of births in this country are to single women, and roughly a quarter of children live in homes where no man is present.

Fathers matter. This would be a much better world if more of today’s men followed the example set by Joseph and placed the well-being of their families above all else.

We pick up the Christmas story with Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem, to settle their tax obligation. No H&R Block in those days. To file his return, Joseph had to load his extremely pregnant wife onto a donkey and make an arduous cross-country journey. He understood the meaning of civil duty.

As famously noted, when they arrived in Bethlehem, they had no place to stay. No one opened their doors for them. And so the one who was to become King of Men entered the world in a barn, shared by livestock.

We have turned the Nativity scene into an idyllic vision of peace and contentment. But in reality the baby Jesus and his parents were homeless, no better off than the poor wretches sleeping in our downtown doorways. Think about that the next time you pass by and pretend not to see.

And what about those wise men? How deep their faith must have been to follow a star across the sky on the promise of finding a greater purpose. We live in an era in which too often we seek amusement instead of wisdom. We are blessed with mind boggling technology in our pockets, and we use it to spread gossip rather than peace and goodwill. Imagine what we could do if we committed to matching our knowledge with the will to change the world.

The three kings left the manger inspired to do great things. We, too, should be constantly inspired to be as great and good as we can be.

This trio also started the tradition of Christmas giving. The holiday season is the most charitable time of the year, and not just because donors are seeking end-of-year tax deductions.

There is something about Christmas that stirs us to think of the needs of others, and to try to meet them. That alone makes the nativity story admirable.