The World of Grandpa Don


A Different View of the Christmas Story
Revd. Father Paul Gibson - December 2006

We are so used to the Christmas story that it has become familiar to
us, we know what it is about, we know the main characters, we think
we get it. But we need to look at it again to see what is really
going on. So let's look at those characters:


Well we know about her don't we? She was a young virtuous woman who said "yes" to an angel, enjoyed a trouble free pregnancy and gave birth in a charming little nativity scene before getting some nice visitors and presents.

Yet Mary was probably only about 13 years old when the angel came to see her. The penalty for getting caught in adultery was death. Mary probably had no one to turn to for help and was desperate for Joseph to believe her. She had to travel miles on a donkey to get to Bethlehem and all there was for her when she got there was a cave full of animals where she had to give birth. No midwife was present, no doctors, just some animals. Her and Joseph were so poor all they had to lay the newborn in was a feeding trough for cattle. This isn't what one expects for a new born king.


We know Joseph, he was the good, the virtuous man, the man who continued his relationship with Mary and didn't disgrace her. Well this is true, but it is also true that he was much older than Mary, he had his own business. He was very spiritual - he could hear the angels talking to him in dreams and he was a good man. But he must have felt angry that he would only be Jesus' stepfather. He must have felt like he was the man God did not need. It can't have been easy.

The Shepherds

We know the shepherds. They were loveable people, rather like the Grundys from the Archers on the Radio. Nice people who looked after sheep. Well, indeed they were, but they were also seen as being outsiders in Jewish society. They had to work on the Sabbath, they couldn't attend worship regularly, they were unclean. They were always seen as amongst the poorest of the poor. Again its not the cozy image of Christmas we are used to!

The Wise Men

It's a little early to be thinking of them, but we imagine the wise men, or kings, to be rather royal, regal, and, indeed wise. We think of them with their gifts and see them as being unusually generous to the baby Jesus - but there is a sting in the tail of their gifts. The wise men were astrologers, rather like Russell Grant. They not only studied the stars but they sought to find meaning in them. They were probably Zoroastrian priests from what is now Iraq. They were probably eunuchs - which meant that they were sexual outsiders, possibly even gay as in many ancient texts the term eunuch can also mean a gay man.
Their gifts were strange. Gold is a gift fit for a king. It would have been useful too for the family as they were living away from home and the Bible says they didn't get home until after King Herod was dead. Frankincense is a little odd. It is a perfume made from various gums of trees. As you can smell when you come into churches it gives off a powerful aroma when it burns. It has been used for thousands of years as a symbol of prayer rising to the heavens. It was a gift fit for a priest. So the wise men knew Jesus to be a king and a priest - something no doubt they saw a lot of in Persia. But the last gift has a real sting in the tail - myrrh. Again a heavily perfumed gum, but this substance was used to anoint the bodies of the dead. It was a strong perfume, it would hide the smell of decay.  This last gift foretold his death, maybe even seeing Jesus as a sacrifice. They saw him as a king, a priest but also a sacrifice. Heaven only knows what Mary made of all this.  Looking Deeper

So we have a story with a teenage mum, an older dad, extreme poverty, outsiders coming to say "hi" and three mysterious wise men coming along with odd gifts. It is only when we think about Jesus' uncanny ability to "turn the tables" that any of this makes sense. Jesus was not born into luxury and wealth, but into poverty and exile. He would know what it would mean to be an asylum seeker. He was born to a mother in danger of being an outcast. He was born to a dad struggling to work out his place in the scheme of things. He would know doubt and insecurity just as we do. The first to come and see him weren't proud family members or haughty courtiers, but humble shepherds who were seen as being outside the gate. The outsiders keep on getting there before the priests do. The last visitors were not only outsiders, but pagan foreigners who saw meaning in the starts and acted upon their learning. These were not good Jewish priests, but pagans, heathens with whom Jews were supposed to have nothing to do - what's more their status made them outsiders too.

This nativity scene is not about "old fashioned family values" but about our lives now. This is about the Great Reversal, when everything is turned around and the outsiders are welcomed in whilst those who have all this world can offer are left in the cold. This is the hall mark of Jesus' ministry again and again.

And So……

And so this Christmas remember we worship the one who was an outsider, the one who understands what it is like to be insecure, to be different, to be seen as being unholy, not quite right.

This Christmas we worship one who was born to be a refugee, an asylum seeker.

This Christmas we give thanks that our modern politicians weren't in charge of immigration in Egypt when the Holy Family fled there.

This Christmas we invite him into our hearts again, so that we can spread his love and his light to those around us.


Lord Jesus,
You were born into the squalor of our world,
Into a world of poverty and exile,
You were born of parents who were unprepared and insecure,
You were visited by outsiders and foreigners,
Before you could walk you were on the run from oppression,
Be born in us again,
That we may make our world better,
That in our world we may fight against injustice and prejudice,
So that the light you lit at Bethlehem all those years ago,
Continues to burn brightly for us in our time.




About the author.

Rt Revd Father Paul Gibson BA, DD{Hons}Cert.Pm,
Presiding Bishop and Founder of the International Inclusive Community of St Sebastians

Priest in Charge  - St Sebastians Church in Gran Canaria    

I do not endorse Paul Gibson's denomination but include his thoughts on this page because these particular thoughts are in general agreement with my philosophies and are expressed in an excellent manner. Furthermore, inclusion of his work here is consistent with my belief that we must look to the things that are positive in value and unite rather than divide humanity.

Grandpa Don Plefka



A Different View of the Christmas Story
Revd. Father Paul Gibson - December 2006

(Used with his permission)

Father Paul Gibson is a fellow member of
the Order of St. Isidore of Seville

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