By Gary DeMar
With Christmas not too far away, we will hear the inevitable revisionist version of the Nativity story: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph exemplify the poverty stricken homeless family that needs the government to help them. Jesse Jackson was the first to turn Joseph and Mary into a "homeless couple" when he claimed that Christmas "is not about Santa Claus and `Jingle Bells' and fruit cake and eggnog" (true) but about "a homeless couple" (false).1 He continued the fabrication in 1999 by repeating the biblical sleight of hand.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 wrote, "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 What does the Bible actually say?
- Mary did not engage in premarital sex. Her circumstances, to say the least, were unique (Luke 1:26–28). We don't know if Mary was in her teens.
- 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). Presumambly her parents owned a home and did not throw her out when they learned of her pregnancy.
- Mary and Joseph were actually married at the time she learned she was pregnant even though a formal ceremony had not taken place. Joseph is called "her husband" (Matt. 1:19).
- Joseph was 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 places of birth to register for a tax (Luke 2:1-7). This meant lost wages and unplanned expenses because of a mandate by the State.
- 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 complied with the governmental decree (Luke 2:1).
- Mary and Joseph had enough money to pay for lodging, but "there was no room in the inn" (Luke 2:7).
- Joseph and Mary owned or rented a home. It was in their home that the wise men offered 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).
1. As reported in 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.