Paraphrased by Donna Lee SchillingerSurely by now, you’ve heard of YouVersion, the Bible app with over 600 versions. Well, it’s missing one important one, and that’s my version! At the beginning of this year, I started, as a devotional practice, trying to rephrase the NIV Bible in words and phrasing I would use in regular conversation. After completing the book of John, I had garnered so much understanding and perspective compared to the times I had just read the Bible that I decided to move forward with a chronological NIV of the four gospels and Acts. You can read my progress on my personal blog. Here’s my version of the Christmas story. I have cited the corresponding NIV scriptures throughout the text. Now let me throw down a challenge for you to pick a small New Testament book and try to put it in your own words verse by verse in the coming year, so that you too can have a version! Please don’t misunderstand the challenge. This isn’t an exercise in post-modern relativity where you can decide what you think the Bible should say. The point is to take what the Bible does say, ingest it, digest it and then reiterate it in the way you speak in conversation, without changing the meaning. You’ll be surprised at how much more personal God’s word becomes to you.
The First Christmas (my version)
There was a teenage girl named Mary who was engaged to marry a young man named Joseph Davidson. Joseph came from a good family. He had in his lineage, among other notables, King David of Judah. Not long before the wedding was set to take place, it became obvious that Mary was pregnant (and not with Joseph’s child). Joseph was an upright kind of guy and didn’t want to make a huge scene, so he thought he would just end the engagement quietly.
He was all but decided on this course of action when he had a dream in which an other-worldly being appeared to him and said, “Joseph Davidson, don’t be afraid to marry Mary. The child she’s carrying belongs to God’s Holy Spirit. It’s going to be a boy and you will name him Jesus. And he’s going to rescue those who belong to him from the punishment their human condition deserves.”
When Joseph woke up, he went along with the dream and married Mary. However, he was careful not to have sex with her until after she gave birth. Matt. 1:18-21; 24-25
Around this same time, the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, who controlled the nation of Israel, issued a mandate for a census of the entire Roman Empire. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was the governor of Syria, FYI.) So everyone had to go to their ancestral home to register. This meant that Joseph had to leave his present home in Nazareth, Galilee, and go back to Bethlehem, Judea, which is where all the Davidsons were from. He took Mary along, baby bump and all.
Bethlehem was packed with people and there was absolutely no lodging, so they had to stay in a barn. While they were in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor and gave birth to a son, her first child. Lacking the proper supplies for a newborn, they just wrapped him in whatever cloth they could find and used the animals’ feed trough as a cradle.
Some shepherds lived out in the fields near the barn. On the night Jesus was born, they were tending their sheep outside when, all of the sudden, they saw something amazing surrounding them—not of this world—and then a being appeared to them. It was terrifying.
The being said, “Don’t be afraid. I’ve got great news that’s going to make everyone happy. Today, right over there in Bethlehem, the Rescuer has been born. He’s the one God has appointed to rule. You’ll know you’ve found him when you see a baby wrapped in rags and cradled in a feed trough.”
All of a sudden, there was a whole military company of these beings in the sky and they were saying, “All the credit goes to God who lives in the highest places outside of time and space. Peace to the people of Earth who God favors.”
Then they were gone.
When the shepherds could speak again, they said, “We ought to go to Bethlehem and find this baby that… that… thing told us about.”
They rushed off and were able to find Mary, Joseph and the baby, cradled in a feed trough. After seeing this, they told everyone they could what had happened and who this child was. Everyone who heard their story was amazed. Mary took careful note of everything that was happening and she contemplated it—not with her head, but with her heart.
The shepherds eventually went back to tending sheep, but for a long time after, they marveled and were in awe at how God announced the child’s birth to them and how they found the child exactly as the being had described. Luke 2:1-20
This all went down just the way God said it would hundreds of years earlier through the words of a prophet: “A virgin will conceive and give birth to a son who will be known as God with us on Earth.” Matt. 1:22-23
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, some philosopher/astrologer dignitary types from somewhere farther east (possibly modern day Iran, Iraq, India or China) arrived in Jerusalem wanting to know, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve been studying the stars and saw the cosmic sign that he was born. We want to pay homage to him.”
This was news to King Herod, and not the good kind. In fact, it had all of Jerusalem in a clamor. He called together all the top dogs of the church and the law and asked where this appointed child was supposed to be born, according to the ancient texts.
“In Bethlehem, Judea,” they replied. “An ancient prophet wrote, ‘Don’t belittle yourself, Bethlehem. Stand tall among the rest of Judea because you are going to be the hometown of a ruler who will guide my people, Israel.’”
Behind closed doors, Herod met with the visiting dignitaries and ascertained the exact time the star they mentioned had appeared. He sent them on to Bethlehem with instructions to, “Search out the child, and as soon as you find him, send news to me so I can come and pay homage too.”
With this, they left, and they were able to follow the celestial body right to the place where Jesus was residing. It just hung over the place. They could hardly believe their eyes and were just plain giddy. Collecting themselves, they entered the house and saw Jesus with his mother, Mary, and they got down on hands and knees and pledged their confidence and service. Then they brought the first Christmas presents: gold, frankincense and myrrh—all really expensive stuff in those days.
Wise men that they were, after a dream warned them against Herod, they decided not to go back the same way they had come, avoiding contact with Herod entirely. Matt. 2:1-12
As for baby Jesus, well, he grew up and became a strong and wise young man. God had exceptionally gifted him. Luke 2:40.In 2008 Donna Lee Schillinger founded On My Own Now Ministries to encourage faith, wise life choices and Christ-likeness in young adults. On My Own Now publishes the free, monthly online magazines, Single! Young Christian Woman and Genuine Motivation: Young Christian Man.