Advent 2014 – Week 4

Week 4, beginning 21st December:
The Magi

The final explanation is worth a watch.

We are somewhat jumping ahead of ourselves, since this part of the Christmas story doesn’t take place until 2 years after Jesus birth, and is usually celebrated on the Sunday closest to the 6th January, known as Epiphany.

But, in any case, the Magi are still involved in the birth narrative, and are often included in Nativity scenes and Nativity plays, so there’s no harm in reflecting on their part in the story.

The Magi appear in Matthew’s Gospel, which is odd. Matthew was writing to spread the Good News of Jesus among Jews. That’s why chapter 1 of his Gospel lists Jesus’ genealogy; that’s Matthew’s way of showing Jews reading his gospel that Jesus is who He claimed to be: the Messiah, descended from the line of David.

So, if Matthew is trying to win over the Jews for Christ, why would he then include a story about Gentiles (non-Jews) so early on in his Gospel?

Tom Wright, a favourite theologian of mine, has a knack for being able to explain complex theological points in concise manner. Here is a quote from his book, Matthew For Everyone (2004):

The arrival of the ‘Magi’…introduces us to something which Matthew wants us to be clear about from the start. If Jesus is in some sense king of the Jews, that doesn’t mean that his rule is limited to the Jewish people. At the heart of many porphecies about the coming king, the Messiah, there were predictions that his rule would bring God’s justice and peace to the whole world…. Here, even when Jesus is an apparently unknown baby, there is a sign of what is to come. The gifts that the Magi brought were the sort of things that people in the ancient world would think of as appropriate presents to bring to kings, or even gods….

Listen to the whole story, Matthew is saying. Think about what it meant for Jesus to be the true king of the Jews. And then – come to him, by whatever route you can, and with the best gifts you can find. (Wright, 2004: 11-12)

Jesus is for everyone. Jesus is for you this Christmas. But, what sort of gift should we bring, when we come to Jesus? In answer to that, let me point to the final verse of the hymn, “In the Bleak Midwinter”:

What, then, can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
What, then can I give Him? Give Him my heart.

Sola Deo Gloria. Amen.

Advent 2014 – Week 3

Week 3, beginning 14th December:
The Shepherds

Again, the explanation behind this video is well worth watching.

It’s a humbling thing, knowing what God did that first Christmas.

God came down: He lived as a human being. He didn’t come in power and glory. He came in the vulnerable position of a baby, born of and dependent upon His human mother. He began His journey of life in the humblest way possible: through birth.

But those to whom God first chose to first reveal His birth is also humbling. At the time when the Gospels were written, shepherds were considered on the lowest rung of society. They were a little above lepers. The highest a shepherd could climb is if he was placed in charge of the sheep used in Temple sacrifices.

So, when the message of Christ’s birth is announced, it would not be expected that shepherds would be the first to hear. And yet, it was! It was to shepherds that God first shared the news of His birth!

What does this tell us? It tells us that God is for the least, that God favours the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised. God is serious when He says the last are first in His eyes.

God is for the least of us. And that encourages me! It reminds me that, this Christmas, and always, God is for me. And He is for you too!

Sola Deo Gloria. Amen.

Advent 2014 – Week 2

Week 2, beginning 7th December:
Mary & Joe

The explanation behind this video is well worth watching.

It couldn’t have been easy for Mary. Yes, it was an honour to be asked to bear God in human form. But she was 16 years old, at most. She was unmarried. She would have to face being mocked and ostracised by her community because she was pregnant outside of marriage.

It couldn’t have been easy for Joseph. Told by his future wife that she would fall pregnant and bear God in human form. Told by his future wife that their first child was conceived by the will of God and not him. It would have been easier for him to leave Mary and walk away.

It couldn’t have been easy for either of them, travelling the distance to Bethlehem, struggling to find a place to stay, their first child being born in abject poverty.

It couldn’t have been easy for Mary and Joseph to hold that baby in their arms, knowing this was God in human form. The God of the universe: not powerful and mighty, but small and vulnerable. A baby, who would need to totally rely on His mum and dad to take care of Him. What a challenge! What a privilege!

It couldn’t have been easy…but they persevered; they followed God’s will through to the end. It couldn’t have been easy…but what an amazing outcome! What hope for the world! God came to our rescue!

Sola Deo Gloria. Amen.