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Christmas, the untold story

Updated on January 12, 2016
lawrence01 profile image

Loving God and loving mankind is an important part of who I am, in these hubs we explore what it's like to really follow Jesus.

Were there only three?

The wise men bearing gifts. a 6th Century Byzantine depiction
The wise men bearing gifts. a 6th Century Byzantine depiction | Source

The bit that's never told

To me, the amazing thing about the Christmas story is all the different little pieces that take part in it and the way it all seems to come together. Each one of us probably has a favourite

Maybe it’s Mary and Joseph, after a pretty difficult journey arrive in town and there’s nowhere to stay! The only place they can find is a seeming hovel that’s part human accommodation and part barn! There’s just nowhere else for them to stay.

Mary is a young teenage bride pretty close to her due date, but a seeming cruel edict has come down from an uncaring ruler in a land far away that says a census has to be taken for tax purposes (now who likes to pay tax?) and that means her new husband has to make the trip all the way to the city of his ancestors to get registered!

There's already all kinds of horrible rumours flying around about Mary, everyone thought she was a 'good Jewish girl' but now she's pregnant and not married, worse yet there are even rumours it might be by a Roman soldier!!!

Joseph is probably a little older, around thirty, but he’s a carpenter, not the richest dude in town, and what’s worse is his wife is carrying someone else’s child (that’s what he thought at first) and he was trying to do right by her while at the same time saving his own reputation, that was until an Angel went and put his big foot in it! HE TOLD JOSEPH IT WAS ALL GOD'S DOING!

Where the story begins (for me)

My favourite part actually probably didn’t happen at Christmas! It probably happened a few years later, when Jesus was a toddler and even though there’s not much evidence outside the Bible for the events around the time of Jesus the events leading up to this are all documented and really did happen.

520 BC eight hundred miles to the East of Jerusalem stood the great city of Babylon, it had just been conquered by the Medes and the Persians but it was still a great metropolis and two of the most important figures in the new Medo-Persian empire lived there, one of them was about to have a vision that would change history forever, it would give the precise time that the Jewish Messiah would appear, and it would give a timeline from when certain events would happen that those with wisdom would be able to figure out when he would be born

The Seventy “Sevens”

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’[c] are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish[d] transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.[e

25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One,[f] the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.[g

(New International Version)

Here is the strange thing that most folks don’t realize, the man who had the vision was also head of the ‘wise men’ of the East and had regular dealings with a tribe called ‘The Magi’ who were heredetory priests and astrologers.These priests were from the Zoroastrian religion but knew of the teachings of the Jews in Babylon and especially they knew the Prophet Daniel.

The prophecy tells us that 490 years after the order to rebuild the city of Jerusalem is when the Messiah would come, that order was given in 449 BC (if you use the Julian 365 day calendar, if you use the Jewish 360 day calendar it was 460 BC). come forward the 490 years and you literally come to 28 Ad and the date that Jesus entered the Temple at the triumphal entry.

Come forward four centuries and Jerusalem had been rebuilt, the countdown had begun just as the prophecy of Daniel had said it would but then something strange happened, something that would show just how dangerous a world the Messiah was coming into.

Everyone has a part in this story

Jerusalem, Israel:
Jerusalem, Israel

get directions

Just outside Jerusalem is where Jesus was

Babylon, Iraq:
Bābil, Iraq

get directions

Where Daniel was in 520 BC

Saba, Persia:
Khorasan Razavi, Mashhad, Saba, Iran

get directions

One tradition has them xoming from here, and buried.

san'a yemen:
Sana'a, Yemen

get directions

Another says they were Jewish Kings from Yemen (Yemen was ruled by a Jewish family at the time)

Cologne, Germany:
Cologne, Germany

get directions

The Western tradition has their remains buried here.

New power rising

There was a new superpower in the region, one that was going to dominate the known world for centuries, but Rome was lead by three very ambitious men at the time, it was still a ‘republic’ in name, but in reality it was easily controlled by men with ambition and three men held the reins at the time. Julius Caeser, Pompey and Marcus Crassus.

Crassus was already famous for putting down the slave rebellion led by the infamous 'Spartacus' but his fame was dim compared to that of Pompey who'd annexed whole countries for Rome and was about to be overtaken by the 'upstart' Julius Caeser (none of them liked each other very much, but held off from fighting each other as they knew it would tear the Empire apart!)

Pompey had annexed Judea in 69 BC literally at the request of the ruling Jewish families to stop the infighting that had been going on for nearly forty years, he was the senior but the other two were just as ambitious and Crassus was the wealthiest man in the Empire, he decided to do what all good Romans did when he saw gold, to take it for himself.

In 53 BC he marched with seven legions plus support troops for what he thought would be an easy victory against the successors to the Medes and Persians.

Carrahae is known as one of the most spectacular defeats of the Roman Army in history! An army of 40,000 met an army of 15,000 in the field and lost in spectacular fashion, the Empire was left so weak in the East that there was nothing stopping the Parthians taking everything from the Tigris right through to Egypt itself.

Desperate to shore up what support they could muster and dealing with a rebellion in Jerusalem at the same time the Romans turned to a middle civil servant who was governing Galilee at the time a young man by the name of Herod to take over Judea and try to stave off the inevitable Parthian onslaught that they felt was coming.

There were those in Jerusalem who thought that life under the Parthians would have been better as there were already large Jewish communities under their rule where they got special privileges and Herod wasn’t a full Jew! He was from Idumea which was Edomite country! Herod always knew the Jews would get rid of him as soon as they could, but he was determined to hold on!

The Roman General

Marcus Licinius Crassus, the Roman who "wanted it all"
Marcus Licinius Crassus, the Roman who "wanted it all" | Source

Herod and Judea

As it happened.

We’re not totally sure when the star appeared, or even what kind of star it was (Edward Halley calculated it was possibly the Comet he discovered as that comes round every seventy years and would have been in the sky then) but the men from the East knew to look for a sign for the star, they knew he who was coming was to be ‘King of the Jews’ and probably going to be born in or near Jerusalem but beyond that they knew little, but picture the scene, they may be wide men, but they are about to go into enemy territory to worship a baby they’ve no idea where, just that the prophecies foretold of his coming!

Now imagine the scene at Herod’s palace when men (we presume because there were three gifts that there were three of them, but it might have been a lot more with bodyguards, attendants/servants) clearly men of influence and their retinue come to worship a baby?

Meanwhile, somewhere in Bethlehem a young family are about to have their evening meal and have absolutely no idea the firestorm coming their way in the night, a night when they’ll have to literally run for their lives and desperately try to reach the relative safety of Egypt before the tyrant in the Palace realizes they’ve slipped out of his grasp!

it's early evening, Joseph has just finished for the day, he's looking forward to seeing Mary and the child, maybe he's managed to put the crazy events out of his mind for a while, after all the child is just a toddler running around just like todders do.

The knock at the door is pretty loud, but it's just probably Avram from next door, he can be pretty loud at times, he opens the door and just stands there transfixed.

"Who is it honey?" Mary sort of shouts from the back room, he can't say a word. There stand a group of the best dressed gentlemen he's ever seen, and they're armed to the teeth! Not the gentlemen themselves, but the guards with them.

"We want to see the boy" they demand and just wait. Mary's come out of the Kitchen now and the infant followed her, Joseph wants to run and scream to get them out of there but he can't move, he's rooted to the spot in terror. The men just walk in and kneel in front of the child!

Jesus was probably a toddler when all this happened, that’s why the order was given to kybe ill all the children under two years old!

Just try to put yourself in Joseph and Mary's position when this goes on. How would you feel? Herod isn't known for suffering usurpers and even children have disappeared in his murderous rages, and here is your child recieving worship from folks who are clearly not just Herod's enemoes but enemies of Rome!

Some interesting facts

Many try to say today that the whole 'Nativity narrative' may not have happened, it certainly wasn't put together in the form that we see in our plays today until St Francis of Assisi, but there are a few facts that we can look at and see what the record says

520 BC The Prophecy really was given and a timeline was established, the Jews knew when the Messiah was coming. Some try to claim that the Book of Daniel was a later book written around 200 BC but it doesn't matter because the timeline it gives stays the same and it works to the day!

Was that order really given? No one can really say beyond the Biblical record except that we do know Herod had his own infant son murdered five days before his own death in 4 BC and it was said it was safer to be a dog in the streets than to be a Prince in Herod’s Palace!

The Romans were routed at Carrahae by horse archers, men with such legendary skill firing their bows as they retreated the Romans gave us a phrase to describe them as they rode away taking a ‘parting shot’ (it was originally known as 'The Parthian shot')

Herod took over Judea and was a despot No one argues about that, and he had his own infant son executed just before his own death because of a supposed plot to kill him and put the son on the throne! in his time on the throne he was known to have had sixteen of his own family murdered including at least two wives and five of his own children.

Joseph and Mary fled with Baby Jesus. To Egypt where they lived for a few years until they heard Herod was dead, only then did they return home, but even then Bethlehem wasn’t safe for them so they went North, to a Garrison town called Nazareth

The Wise men and the Star

Your favourite part

What's your favourite part of the Nativity narrative

See results


This isn’t the kind of ‘Christmas hub’ I wanted to write, I wanted to write something more cheerful but some of the things I’ve come across recently really challenged me and made me think about stuff that I try not to at this time of year, I try to think of happy stuff but this year probably because of some of the things happening in this world I’ve found myself thinking of Jesus as a refugee!

They didn’t ask for the jobs they were given, they didn’t go looking for the trouble that came down on their heads, trouble that largely came through fear and insecurity of those in authority.

Think about it, it’s a few days after Christmas now, maybe it’s the time of year that Joseph and Mary were hurriedly packing whatever they could carry as the ran for their lives with the toddler Jesus in tow.

When you think of Jesus coming in this way it kind of puts a new twist on the plight of the refugees streamnig across the borders in this world, running for their lives, not always running for their own safety but to try and keep their families together and to protect their young ones from the evil that persues them. Some will spend years in camps, unable to work because no one will give a refugee a job. Then they'll be sent to a country that they know little about and often with very little assistance to re-adjust they'll just be expected to cope!

We may not be able to go to the lands they come from. we may not be able to show them what Christmas really means over there but we can show the folks in our street what Christmas is like, we can show them what Jesus would be like if we could see him today and in doing so maybe we'll see Jesus in them and they'll see him in us! What do you think?

Are you with me in that?


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    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Sometimes there's more to a story than we realize.

    • LaurieNunley517 profile image


      3 years ago from Deep South

      Thanks so much for the information...I learned much from it!

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I just added the documentry about the wise men (sorry, thought I'd put it in before) it really does take things to another level in some ways, and it can be astronomically proved!

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Thanks for the visit and 'm glad you liked the hub. Both Daniel and Zoroaster were alive and working arond the same time in the same region (Zoroastrianism is from Iran originally and Daniel as the prime minister of first Babylon and later the Medo-Persian Empire would have known about each other!

      History records that Daniel as the prime minister would also have been chief of the 'wise men' (Magi) and it makes sense that he would have passed his knowledge on to the next generation of wise men.

      The Doco about the wise men here is well worth watching and it brings out some really important things about the 'star' that is mindblowing! and can be backed up astronomically.

      Daniel is actually buried in Kerkuk in Iraq and as such had very strong connections with the 'Medes' that my Kurdish friends used to tell me with great pride were the ancient Kurds!

      By the way, the nativity scenes we all see at Christmas were actually a Medieval creation and the first one was put together by St Francis of Assisi, but let's not be too harsh on the guy as he only really meant it as showing that all came to worship the infant! (St Francis was pretty awesome in some of the stuff he did, but he got this wrong!)



    • LaurieNunley517 profile image


      3 years ago from Deep South

      I had not previously considered the relation between the Daniel prophecy and the Magi. I certainly had no idea that Daniel had a connection to the Zoroastrians. Good insights. My mom really gets annoyed that the wise men are depicted at the nativity. I find that most people don't realize that they arrived when Jesus was older.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      A lot of what's going on today happened before! Also a lot of our attitudes of today were around then!

      The same people who're closing their doors and saying "You might be a terrorist!" were the same as those with the closed doors back then, yet today they gather round a tree and give gifts!

      As I started to write I just wanted to look at Christmas from the perspective of the Magi, the refugee stuff was the logical outworking of the history, yet it reminds us that Jesus was once a refugee and he has strong words for those who don't risk all to help them.

      Have a happy new year


    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Now, stop and think for a moment...history ALWAYS repeats itself, in hopes that humanity will wise up and finally do things right, in order to change the world to be a better place to live. Sadly, we have never done it.

      Fast forward to 2015, where the Syrian refuges are going all over the world looking for a place to stay and are turned away.

      Where is it said that the prophets still exist today, and are doing various good things trying to open the eyes of humanity and do all sorts of the proper things by writing petitions, helping and protecting animals and those that are persecuted, and we are waiting for the great leaders to bring us back to sanity and give us a world to be proud of?

      And global warming will create the floods that once were in order to cleanse and purify the earth again. We have yet to see what ark will be created this time around, once the earth is purged of evil...AGAIN.

      Yes, history repeats itself, and is trying to get things right, all for the stupidity of humanity. This thought occurred to me after I read your article. Do you think humanity will get it right THIS time?

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Say yes

      That's right, but for ne the fascinating part is the events leading up to it. The Parthians were the Romans worst nightmare! The only nation to repeatedly beat off the Romans, in 53 BC they almost overran the entire east of the empire. When the wise men came they would have had servants and soldiers as escorts!

      Imagine a ruler as paranoid as Herod seeing a small army like that arrive! He can't nurder them as that risks war with Parthia but they're here to pay homage to a King and its not him!

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I already knew all this - most likely because I went to a Christian high school. I found out much later that many of the events surrounding Christ's birth, like the census and the mass murder of babies 2 years old and under, don't coincide with when He was allegedly born. Also, most Christmas traditions are not Middle Eastern in origin, but German. Even the date of Christ's birth - December 25th - is way off. It is believed He may have been born either in the fall or the spring.

      Either way, interesting read!

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      You're right that it's probably more relevant to the Christians, one of the reasons for writing the hub is because January 6th is when the arrival of the Magi is remembered.

      It's also a story that I think we can all taje something from, thank you for the visit.

      Happy New Year


    • emge profile image


      3 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Its a fascinating hub, but more relavent to Christians, though the threads are common everywhere

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      The symbolism is there right through the whole narrative, the ancient Rabbis used to say there were four ways every story in the Torah (I'd say the whole Bible) could be interpreted. (1) Literal (2) Allegorical (3) Symbolic and (4) As the Spirit speaks!

      Glad tge story spoke to you.

      Happy New Year


    • Oztinato profile image

      Andrew Petrou 

      3 years ago from Brisbane

      It's a fascinating history with endless room for study. It seems a very real possibility the three wise men were Zoroastrians. A kind of astrological activity is described as well.

      I often like to look at the symbolism of these and later biblical events. A virgin birth is often used as a symbol of God as God has no father: He is seen as a Being without precedent or creator.

      Also the birth in a stable is an oblique symbol of His role as sacrifice: animals were sacrificial offerings. I believe the Bible also says JC came to end all animal and human sacrifices (as one of His many acts).

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I love the story of the wise men. Years ago when I was stationed in Germany I was travelling home by train and had a few hours to wait in Cologne so I took a look around and found the 'shrine of the three wise men' in Cologne Cathedral, I've never been one for 'shrines' but being so close to those who first worshipped Jesus was something else!

      This year I've been hearing a lot about the plight of refugees and the struggles they have and the story just formed from all the stuff I'd found out over the years. I'm glad it gave you a fresh look at an 'old favorite'

      Happy New Year


    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence - I recognize all of the time, work, and passion that went into writing this hub. (Those who deal strictly with fiction have absolutely no idea what goes into something like this). It is so well organized and has made me see the Christmas narrative in a different light. Excellent job. Thank you so much for sharing with all of us.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I don't think anyone could say it better! For me, it's the story of the wise men and how they came to worship him, then the family had to flee!

      You're right it's the greatest story ever told, and still the greatest most hope filled story to tell.

      Happy New Year


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I've always said that the story of Jesus is the greatest story ever told...look at how long it has lasted....look at how long people have been fascinated by it.....truth or fiction isn't really what should be's the meaning behind the story, the lessons told, the everlasting consequences of the is the answer.

      Merry Christmas, Lawrence!


    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      It dies my heart good to hear that. In my hubs you'll probably get a different take to a lot of commentators


    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      3 years ago from New Zealand

      Interesting story, first time I have heard any of this, you have great knowledge.

      I think I will have to go back to reading the bible which I have forgotten over the years. My parent brought me up as a Christian, in my late teen years I married and haven't returned to reading the bible, but I'm ready now to learn what I have forgotten.

      Thanks for a nice Christmas story.

      Happy Days.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      It actually wasn't easy to write as there was some personal reactions to deal with (on both sides) but I think it's a message we can take to heart.

      Have a happy new year


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great hub Lawrence. Thank you for haring this interesting untold story. perfect for Christmas.


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