Holiday History: Christmas and record keeping

What does record keeping have to do with the Son of God?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. His birth is celebrated today.

Christians also believe that Jesus’ birth was the fulfillment of prophecy. That’s where the record keeping becomes important.

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The Bible contains powerful stories, songs, poetry, parables, teaching, and much more. It also contains lists—long lists.

Those who study the Bible will generally admit that those lists, such as the census rolls in the book of Numbers, are the driest segments. The names are easily jumbled even by the most diligent readers. The reader may question: Why are these lists even in here?

Then you see the lists describing Jesus’ lineage. For Jesus to be the Messiah and to fulfill prophecy, he had to be a descendant of Israel’s prominent King David. There are genealogies for Jesus in both Matthew Chapter 1 and Luke Chapter 3.

The genealogy in Matthew goes back through David to the patriarch Abraham. (That’s the chapter in the King James Version famous for using the word “begat.”) The list of the ancestors of Jesus in Luke goes through David all the way to Adam.

One list is generally considered the lineage through Mary, Jesus’ mother, and the other is through Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father and Mary’s husband, although that is not specified in scripture.

Scripture does say that a census was involved in the fulfillment of another prophecy: that the Messiah would be from Nazareth, but would be born in Bethlehem.

Luke Chapter 3, verses 1, 3 and 4 read, “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered…All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.”

There, according to scripture, Jesus was born. The little baby about whom so many carols are sung would grow to become not just a teacher but the savior of humankind.

Holiday History is the name we give to these occasional articles. It is interesting that historians use some of the same tools as the Bible.

Census records, for example, are considered primary sources for historians. Primary sources are first-hand accounts on a topic, from people who are familiar with it. Historians will use census records to piece together relationships between people, and to see how communities fit and worked together, for example.

It comes full circle for historians and genealogists because family Bibles are often excellent sources of family history, with names and sometimes even more details inscribed inside.

Some people have the goal of reading the Bible in its entirety. For many, they use a guide to read the Bible through in a year and often start at the New Year.

If you have that goal for 2022, when you reach the parts with the record keeping, you can now have a little more appreciation why it’s there.

Merry Christmas.

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