Between third and fourth grade, my family moved to a new state and a new church. I remember feeling competent when I was in fourth grade Sunday school because I could answer questions. So I’m guessing my third grade Sunday school teachers were pretty good, though I don’t remember them at all. What I do know is that I didn’t understand many things in third grade that I understand now.
I thought about this on Monday as Richard and I were talking about Bethlehem. “Everyone was related to Joseph,” he said. “When they got to Bethlehem and couldn’t find a place, what if it wasn’t just about the crowds? What if it was because relatives knew their story and wouldn’t take them in?” Their story, of course, was about a questionable pregnancy, a quick wedding without the usual feasting, and vague references to “angels”.
We talked for awhile, a doctor and a pastor who had never considered this. We thought about how this housing discrimination, this pushback of the new black sheep in the family, was consistent with Isaiah’s statement that the coming servant will be despised and rejected. We think about Jesus’ rejection at Easter. What if it starts at Christmas?
It would have been hard to talk about illegitimacy in a Sunday school pageant in 3rd grade in 1966. I do remember that pageant. I held a wreath and had lines usually given to fourth graders. It was a short poem. I felt proud. I’m sure that in that program, the reason Jesus was born in a manger was because there was no room in the inn because the town was crowded. Not wrong, but not the whole story.
I have learned so much since third grade Sunday school. I’m still learning. So are you. That’s why we have these conversations.