Saturday, 13 December 2014

Into What Context Did Jesus Arrive?

Into What Context Did Jesus Arrive?
Matthew 1-2; Luke 2

What was the world like when Jesus was born?
  That is, the matrix of text and context when we hear the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth. There was a clash between the kingdom of Rome and the kingdom of God. The Roman kingdom is overwhelming in its military, economy, political and ideological power. And as we look at the kingdom of God in this first century CE there is much to be determined.
            Caesar Augustus was entitled Lord, Son of God, Bringer of Peace and Saviour of the World by self- proclamation and use of the kingdom’s people.
But the words of the angels give Jesus these names and more—Son of the Most High, Son of God, (Nazareth 1:32,35) Saviour, Lord and Peace- (2:11,14). And then we see the response of Roman rule onto Galilee, who is this Jesus?
            Even the genealogies that Matthew and Luke state differ in their location and direction. Matthew’s genealogy comes at the start of Jesus’ public life after his baptism and outside the birth story. Luke starts with Jesus and goes backwards to Adam but no mothers are mentioned. Why are these details important to our understanding of the infant in the stable?
            Some would say it does not matter for if we truly have faith and believe in the incarnation of Chrsit, God descending to earth as a human baby, God had it planned out where, when and through whom. Prophets had lined up what was to come and  history was lived out as God intended from Adam to Jesus. Yet there are those who cannot believe that God would have planned history after giving to humans, the gift of reasoning, thinking and discernment. But what about you?
            Have you thought about he contextual matrix—the time period into which Jesus came? How necessary was it that the Jewish people needed a messiah? What about the Gentiles? Were lives threatened because of uncertainty of faith in God? Why was Jesus born then? Herod seemed threatened by the birth of this infant and even asked the Wise Men to find the baby and report back to where He was. But these men were wise and knew that Herod really just wanted to kill the baby. He was afraid of the newborn king, born of the Jews,
            Not only was Jesus born to Mary and Joseph away from the familiar community where family and friends lived, he was born during a time when the ruling Caesar felt threatened by a helpless dependent infant. When Jesus was born the time was right. Prophecy had been fulfilled, The Wise Men had witnessed a star which was a sign for them of the new messiah. And when God had spoken to Mary- it was real. She really was pregnant and she was carrying God’s Son, the Saviour

Mary was chosen to bear Jesus. Joseph had to be told to stay with Mary and everything would be all right. Their faith lead them throughout this whole process parenthood, marriage and living God’s way while raising a family, and particularly God’s Son. Do you think Jesus’ birth occurring in any other time than 1st century Roman Empire/Jerusalem state have the same outcome- of Jesus’ crucifixion /death and resurrection? Why?
 We anticipate Jesus’ coming again- but he will not come as an infant but in all his glory as God’s Son. Will we know him?  Did Mary really know what her Son would experience in his life?

God of Advent and Christmas we praise you for your gift to us in Jesus. Help us to understand the world into which Jesus was born over 2000 years ago. Help us to understand our world today when we anticipate again the celebration of Emmanuel—God with Us.
Bless us in this journey we call Advent waiting and preparation. Show us your way to love and live as faithful believers of the One born to us in Bethlehem, died on a cross and rose to new life through the resurrection. Hear our prayers we ask. Amen

This reflection is based upon ideas of by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan in  The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really teach About Jesus’ Birth. New York: Harper One,1989, p.81-98, ch.4.

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