Thursday, 29 January 2015

Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy

Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy

This took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”’ Matthew 1:22-23

How significant is Jesus’ birth story to the historical timeline of
human history? This is a question which defines Jesus’ birth through time. Prophets wrote of the messiah to come for many years and when Jesus came, Matthew and Luke record this event by sharing the statements of the Old Testament prophets in order to emphasize that Jesus’ birth just didn’t happen by chance.
Both Matthew and Luke use the theme of fulfillment of prophecy as they share the stories of Jesus’ nativity but they do so in different ways. Matthew uses the prediction-fulfillment formula five times in telling Jesus’ birth story using similar phrases. These statements are not predictions about Jesus but glimpses of what is to come. Matthew’s statement of Mary reads slightly different in Isaiah 7:14 when it is quoted. But the symbolic naming of a child with a phrase is unique and tells the king that God would be with him and the people of Jerusalem in the present crisis.
Luke proclaims the continuity of Jesus with Israel and his fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel in more than one way. Luke uses hymns and the singing of hymns to emphasize the joy of prophecy being fulfilled.  Mary’s Magnificat echoes a psalm of thanksgiving and reflects the joy experienced by Hannah (Samuel’s mother) and Psalms which emphasize joy and thanksgiving.(Ps 35:9) Luke also uses different literary styles to imitate the Old Testament’s law and prophecy and brings this into his story telling of Jesus’ birth. Through his writing, Luke using the style of Old Testament work tells us that what has happened in Jesus is the continuation and climax of the story of Israel.
Promise and fulfillment –through Abraham and Sarah and their many descendants. Slavery and freedom of the Israelites. Yearning for justice and peace with an ideal king leading them but for over 500 years this did not occur. When Roman imperial rule began the Jewish peoples seemed more oppressed. But then we read Matthew and Luke and the birth of Jesus who is the means through which God’s promises are and will be fulfilled..
Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy.not a means of a prediction coming true. This statement holds much hope and faith but why? Does it matter to you that Jesus fulfilled the prophets’ message of generations before? Does it make a difference how the story of Jesus’ birth comes to you or is the Jesus’ birth story just nice as it is? Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour, for he has loked with favour on the lowliness of his servant” She then recites how God’s promise is now being fulfilled. This is the hope of the Law and the Prophets= the world will be changed.
In looking at our world today has the world changed because of Jesus? What about your world (as you live it)? What about you as an individual? Has Jesus birth made a difference in your life as you continue to live in 2015?
Matthew and Luke wrote Jesus’ birth story in order that those who hear or read it will be forever changed because Jesus’ coming to earth brought God into our world. God into our every day life. Is this significant for you? How?

Holy God as we recall Jesus’ birth story we realize how prophecy has been fulfilled yet we somehow miss the significance of this each time we enter into Advent and Christmas. Jesus is amongst us and he walked this earth to teach and show us the depth of love. Enable us and call us to hear His words for life. Amen.

This reflection is based upon ideas of by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really teach About Jesus’ Birth. New York: Harper One,1989, p.99-127, ch.8.  Watch next week as we begin a new study on Detours in life!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Are you Living in the Light?

Are you Living in the Light?

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Isaiah 60:1-3

Light is an ancient symbol central to ancient Judaism and
early Christianity and particularly the celebration of Christmas. Jesus is born in the deepest darkness, in the middle of the night at the winter solstice. Pope Julius of Rome declared December 25 as the date to celebrate Christ’s birth (in the year 350). This date integrated Christ’s birth with a Roman winter solstice festival and so the Roman birthday of the sun became the Christian birthday of the Son. Jesus is the light that comes into the world in the darkness.
            In the Old Testament there are stories filled with symbolism of light—creation- God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. (Gen.1:3-5). Light imagery often symbolizes the presence of God, the nearness of the sacred. Abraham imagined God as “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch” appearing to him “in a deep and terrifying darkness”(Gen 15:12,17). It is also “a pillar of fire by night, to give them light’ which leads the Hebrew people into the Promised Land (Exod. 13:21)
Light is also defined as illumination not in seeing physically, but understanding God’s word which enables us to live His way. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps 119:105)  Light is also used in Isaiah where the prophet associates the coming of light with the coming of the ideal king. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness- on them has light shined (9:2) The great light that has come in the promised One. This light also is recognized as God’s glory which takes away darkness.
In the New Testament, light is used in Paul’s story of conversion as a lgith from heaven shining upon him. (Acts 9, 22 and 26) The light images are radiant, luminous presence and give glory to God. This light is also known through how God has shone in our hearts, how he gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God and then all three are seen in the face of Jesus.  There is also images of light in Revelation (no night there) and the city of Jerusalem will be a city of light and its light is the glory of God and Jesus.
Light is shared and experienced in Luke and Matthew. The imagery of light is both personal and political. The contrasts between darkness and light are correlated with other central contrasts: bondage and liberation, exile and return, injustice and justice, violence and peace, falsehood and truth, death and life. And when we reflect on these contrasts, it is important to see the political implications as well. What does seeing the light of justice mean if we do not see how it will impact politically in a community of hope?
Borg and Crossan write about the significance of Jesus’ birth in the darkest time of the year, and in the darkness of night. For practical reasons- the star would be better seen and with the light of day, Mary’s visitors would have left her and Joseph and the baby to rest after Jesus was born. The star shone brightly over the place where the baby was and it is through the light in the sky that people far from Bethlehem see a tremendous star. They are drawn to where this Star was and travel to worship the baby. These learned men see the light and go to see the baby.
Saul in his regular trip to Damascus to round up Christians for trial and imprisonment has a conversion experience where there is much light. A light from heaven shines upon him and Jesus speaks to him asking him why he is persecuting his followers. But it is through the light and the voice of Jesus that Saul becomes Paul. Later he tells many people of the glory of God, the light of the world—Jesus.
Light is different from dark and it is the Light of Christ that comes into the world to show us the way of living life as God calls us. It is Jesus who shows us how to live and love as God first intended. Yet there are many who have experienced the light and wonder about Jesus. There are many who return to the darkness and do understand the love of God shown to us in Christ’s birth.
When you hear about Jesus as the Light of the World, what does this mean to you?
Where has Jesus’ light shone for you when you have been in dark places and moments?
How does this help you to know who you are in relationship with Christ? Are you walking in the light of Christ?

Christ’s light is shining amongst us and what do we do? We turn away from Him and walk in the darkness because it is what has become familiar and it sees us through or at
least we think so. We pray O God that your light will touch our lives, illumine us and call us to be faithful followers walking in the light of Christ. Show us your light o God so that we might always follow it. Amen.

This reflection is based upon ideas of by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really teach About Jesus’ Birth. New York: Harper One,1989, p.99-127, ch.7.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Where Is He that is Born King of the Jews?

Where Is He that is Born King of the Jews?
Matthew 2: 1-12

            Back again in this new year of 2015! Sorry about no posting
last week—a getting caught up week!

            Where is he that is born King of the Jews?  This is the question raised by the Magi who were searching for the infant Jesus. They had followed the star which hung in the sky and were travelling to look for him and worship him. This child was different than others for they knew he was the incarnation of God, the fulfillment of the promised made known through the prophets that a child would be born who is the messiah.
            Where is he that is born? Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. The gospels of Matthew and Luke tell their ideas. Matthew—Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea and that Joseph is the “son of David.” So that “Jesus the Messiah is the son of David”. Luke brings it all together. “Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to the city of David called Bethlehem because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went with Mary to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While there, the time came for her to deliver her child.”
            Jesus was born of David’s line and ‘he will save his people form their sins. But this account is not the earliest writings of the lineage of Jesus, Romans speaks of the gospel concerning his Son who was descended from David according to the flesh. John 7 states “This is the Messsiah. Surely the messiah does not come from Galilee does he? When ironically- we also know- Jesus was born in Bethlehem, But does it make a difference where Jesus was born? Isn’t the knowledge that he was born more important?
            This is debatable because of his relationship possibilities with people from around the world. With the Magi knowing the prophecy, they are the ones who connect the birth of the messiah with the star and with the baby where the star had lead them give or take a few miles. Why did they go into Jerusalem first and not just to the house where Jesus was which could have been Bethlehem or Nazareth or some other village in Judea? They are the first Gentiles to see Jesus officially but their visit is regarded as epiphany the time when God revealed Jesus for who he was born to be and become—the Son of God, and the Messiah. But the Wise Men knew this- they searched for him and asked Herod where the ‘king’ would be? The king of the Jews.
            Jesus’ birth was also significant because prophecy was fulfilled. Isaiah, Jeremiah and even other prophets before them, wrote about one who would come to save the people. So when he was born in Bethlehem, prophecy was fulfilled. When Jesus was visited by people from away, prophecy was fulfilled. When angels sang of his birth, prophecy was fulfilled- God said there would be a messiah and the glory of God was revealed.
            This is the story of Jesus’ birth but until Jesus becomes real as messiah and Saviour, the impact of his birth remains just this, a story. Jesus birth is significant because it tells who he is his background and his purpose, but when we think of how he fulfilled prophecy by dying and rising from death, the Christmas story even makes more sense. It is because of prophecy being fulfilled, of God’s revealing who he is that we come to know him and believe. Do you believe in Christ’s birth as a fulfillment of prophecy? Is it significant to your understanding of Jesus as Saviour? How?

Jesus came into the world so that we may be saved from sin and be reconciled with God. As we look at Jesus’ birth narrative, the Christmas story, are we understanding the depth of God’s love to fully know who and what Jesus represents for us?
Who is the baby in the manger and how has his birth life and death and resurrection impacted your life?

God of grace we thank you for Jesus, born in Bethlehem as the prophets foretold. We thank you that you love so much that you would enable these events from history to be fulfilled even today through God’s Spirit working amongst us. Enable us to understand Christ Jesus and show us how to love in Christ’s name. Amen.

This reflection is based upon ideas of by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really teach About Jesus’ Birth. New York: Harper One,1989, p.99-127, ch.6.