Is Christmas About a Homeless Couple or Government Tyranny?

Every Christmas, liberals who despise the Bible and its message about abortion, same-sex sexuality, and the 8th commandment (“You shall not steal”) try to find something from the Bible to advance a liberal cause they claim is based on the Bible. For them, the Bible is selectively relevant and authoritative.

Even the Pope got into the act this year with the claim that the Christmas story is about refugees.

Noting that Mary and Joseph arrived in a land “where there was no place for them,” [Pope] Francis drew parallels to contemporary time.

“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary,” he said in his homily. “We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones.”

This is hardly the case since going from Nazareth to Bethlehem is a trip of 80 miles inside Israel. As we’ll see, the “no room in the inn” had nothing to do with being unwelcomed.

They get the Advent message wrong like they get “my brother’s keeper” message wrong.

Read more: “Obama Misuses the Bible . . . Again.”

Jesse Jackson was the first liberal to turn Advent Season into a political propaganda piece. It was in the December 26,, 1988 issue if Jet Magazine. The title of the article was “Jesse Jackson Tells the Real Meaning of Christmas.”

He made the same claim in 1991 When George H. W. Bush was president.1 He repeated his “homeless couple” theme at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

Apparently, no one ever called Jackson on misappropriation of the biblical record for political gain, because in 1999 he stated that Christmas “is about a homeless couple, finding their way in a mean time.”2

Barbara Reynolds, a former columnist for USA Today, following Jackson’s early lead, scolded the “Christian Right” for opposing government welfare programs: “They should recall,” she writes, “that Jesus Christ was born homeless to a teen who was pregnant before she was married.”3

Hillary Clinton, in comments critical of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s homeless policies, sought to remind all of us that “Christmas celebrates ‘the birth of a homeless child.’”4

News chief political analyst Matthew Dowd tweeted:

“Let us remember today 2 immigrants, a man and his very pregnant wife, sought shelter & were turned away by many. She gave birth in a manger.”

Here’s what the Bible says:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child (Luke 2:1-3).

Notice what the passage says: “And everyone went to their own town to register.” You can’t be an immigrant or a refugee in your own country.

If the Christmas story has anything to do with politics, it’s that governments like to keep track of their subjugated people for tax purposes.

The Christmas story is told against the background of government oppression:

  • Mary went to live with her cousin Elizabeth upon hearing about her pregnancy and “stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home” (Luke 1:56). She was not homeless, and her parents did not disown her.
  • Joseph had a job as a self‑employed carpenter (Matt. 13:55).
  • An edict from the centralized Roman government forced Joseph and Mary to spend valuable resources to return to their place of birth to register for a tax (Luke 2:1-7). Joseph’s business was shut down while he took his very pregnant wife on a tax-raising scheme concocted by the Roman Empire.
  • Typical of governments that make laws without considering the consequences, there was not enough housing for the great influx of traveling citizens and subjects who had to comply with the governmental decree (Luke 2:1).
  • Mary and Joseph had enough money to pay for lodging. The problem was inadequate housing, not a lack of funds or inhospitality. The Greek word translated “inn” (Luke 2:7) is inaccurate when compared to the same word used in Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11 where it’s translated as “guest room.”

  • If we follow liberal logic, any family that takes a trip and finds a “no vacancy” sign is technically homeless. But let’s not give liberals any ideas. They might decide to create a new welfare program.
  • Joseph and Mary owned or rented a house. It was in their house that the wise men presented their gifts: “And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11).
  • Notice that there was no government welfare. The wise men gave freely of what was theirs.
  • Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were a family on the run when Herod, a government official, became a threat against them (Matt. 2:13–15).
  • When the threat was over, they returned to their home.

Politicians and social critics are quick to quote and misquote the Bible when they can twist its message to support their quirky political views. When conservatives appeal to the Bible, we hear the inevitable “separation of church and state,” “you can’t impose your morality on other people,” “religion and politics don’t mix.”

The Advent story, in addition to being a demonstration of God’s love toward sinners, is also about how taxes hurt the poor and government decrees can turn productive families into the disenfranchised by enacting and enforcing counterproductive laws to empower the State.

  1. The Atlanta Journal/Constitution (December 28, 1991), A9. []
  2. Jesse Jackson, “The Homeless Couple,” Los Angeles Times (December 22, 1999). []
  3. Barbara Reynolds, “These political Christians neither religious nor right,” USA Today (Nov. 18, 1994), 13A. []
  4. Cited in “Washington” under Politics in USA Today (December 1, 1999), 15A. []
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