GALION — Everyone knows the Christmas story.
But if you did deeper, there are lots of questions.
Galion Rev. Robert F. Cerar thinks there might be a way to fill in some of the gaps in the Bible’s story of the birth of Jesus.
“This is a wonderful story,” he said. “We really never get tired of hearing it every year, but we also wish that we knew a few more of the missing details.”
Those questions include:
- Whatever happened to all the expensive gifts brought by the Wise Men?
- Were Mary’s parents upset with her when they found out she was pregnant?
- Why couldn’t King Herod’s soldiers follow the star and find the baby, themselves?
- How long did the family stay in the stable? How old was Jesus when they returned to Nazareth?”
Is there a way we can figure out some of these answers?
“I think we can,” Cerar said. “I don’t think the details were left out because they were a secret. I think they were left out for just the opposite reason: They were so obvious to the people of that time that it wasn’t necessary to record them.
“They understood how the ordinary things of their life worked, just like we understand the common things of life today. We wouldn’t include information about normal things like cell phones, faxing and television, but someone studying our culture a thousand years from now will probably struggle to understand how we lived using these devices. As a more recent example, how many people could use a typewriter today?”
What is the process for looking for the missing pieces?
Cerar used a Sudoku puzzle, found in newspapers daily and puzzle books, as a template.
“If you’ve ever seen one of those number puzzles where you are given some of the numbers, and you have to figure out what other numbers go in the blank squares, then you have an idea of the process I used to try to find some of the missing story details,” he said. “We are given certain bits of information in Matthew and Luke. By looking at the facts we do have, it limits and suggests what other facts will fit in the gaps.”
How old was Jesus when the wise men visited Him?
First, you look at that facts you have.
“First fact,” said Cerar. “is that Matthew says that the wise men visited the “Child” in His “house.” The word for child is different than the word for baby so Jesus was a few months older by then. The word for house is not the word for stable, so they were living in a home of some sort. Jesus was no longer a newborn baby in a manger, but He was less than a year old.
“Second fact,” Cerar continued. “Historians tell us King Herod died a year after Jesus was born. Herod died a hideous, lingering death. The wise men met with Herod, so it was probably before his illness. Therefore, Jesus had to have been somewhere between maybe three months and eight months old when the wise men came.
And then Cerar figures out the rest.
“It’s easy to get confused because Herod tells his soldiers to kill all the baby boys up to two years old, but if you look carefully, it doesn’t say that the wise men gave Herod that age. It only says that he asked them when the star appeared, and then he gave the two-year command.
“We assume he gave his soldiers the same number that the wise men gave him, but more likely, Herod significantly increased the age that the wise men gave him in order to make sure that the new King would not be missed by the death squad. He purposely was killing older boys, too, to guarantee that Jesus would die.
“Herod killed two of his sons and his favorite wife because of his insecurity, so killing a bunch of small-town babies would have been nothing for him.”
Cerar was doing some research, which led to a book he never planned to write.
“Every Christmas, as I went over the story again, I kept noticing different details that I thought were fascinating,” he said. “Information I always thought was lost was there all the time. I started making notes, and the notes kept increasing. I finally decided that if it interested me, it might interest other people as well.
“I’ve never come across anything like this before, so I didn’t feel like I was repeating something that someone else has already said.”
Cerar has a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and has been an ordained minister with Open Bible Churches for almost thirty years. He has spent most of his life in Galion, and has been active in the community for many years. In the 1980s, he was a member of the City’s Education Forum Committee and the School Board’s ad hoc committee to develop a program for teaching sex education. He headed the Galion Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as served on the Crawford County Planning Commission.
He was a member of the Galion school board, serving as president and vice president. He was secretary for the Galion Ministerial Association, and was also an assistant pastor at the Galion First United Church of Christ.
People have been receptive of his book.
“Very positive,” he said. “It’s important to realize that I’m not very dogmatic about this information. That’s why it’s in the form of questions. You’re free to make up your own mind about what I’m saying.
“I’m just studying the information, and kind of thinking out loud in the book. The most common response is that it ‘pulls them in’ as they read it. I think that’s a good thing. Obviously, other people are finding it interesting, too. I’m looking forward to hearing other people’s ‘questions about Christmas’ after they read it.”
For now, he’s sharing the book locally to friends and others where it might be read and noticed.
“I’ve had my copyright registered with the Federal government to protect the work,” he said. “But I’ve only been sharing it locally for now to see if there is enough interest to go further. I have a local printer who has printed small quantities for me a few times. If the demand should get large enough, I’ll have to look at how to proceed at that time.”
He says that “Questions for Christmas” is a fun book that gets you thinking. Whatever you decide about the different parts of the Bible story, you will know much more about the people and what they did than you would have thought possible.
“I’ve donated a couple copies to the Galion and Bucyrus public libraries, including a large-print edition. You might want to call ahead to reserve a time to borrow it.
“People can contact me for more information or for additional copies, or they can pick one up at Impression Press on Harding Way East. It would make a great stocking stuffer, or a book for a study group or Sunday School class.
“Even though it’s my book, I still enjoy re-reading it,” Cerar said. “The story is fascinating. Mary and Joseph had all these life-and-death situations and decisions to deal with, but no time to process them emotionally or mentally at the time. Later on, I doubt that anyone would believe them. How do you deal with that? I don’t know, but I’m very glad they did.“