Advent, Christmas & the Nativity: Immanuel, God With Us, Is that good news?

Merry Christmas!

In Matthew’s Gospel, he states that the birth of Jesus fulfills Isaiah 7:14.

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:20-23

Fulfillment in Matthew:

Matthew employs the phrase “this was to fulfill” a number of times in his gospel before citing a passage from the Old Testament. While his fulfillment language can sometimes refer to a rather direct prediction, like the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, the city of David, this prediction/fulfillment scenario does not exhaust the phrase.

The phrase is better understood as meaning something more like “this (event) brings to completion” or “this (event) is the fullest expression of”. As far as we can tell, no Jews were expecting the Messiah or Messsiah(s) to be born of a virgin. Continue reading “Advent, Christmas & the Nativity: Immanuel, God With Us, Is that good news?”

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Advent, Christmas and the Nativity Part VI: Strange Women or Xenophobia & Genealogy 

While those of you who have read my previous posts are scrambling to put together a model of a first century Bethlehemite home complete with guest room and attached stable, I am departing slightly from the Nativity scene itself as I turn to Matthew’s genealogy which precedes his passing reference to Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem.

In his genealogy of Joseph’s line, Matthew includes references to four women from Abrahamic/Davidic line. They are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah (or Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon).

Why does Matthew mention these women at the beginning of his gospel? As with most good storytelling, there is no single right answer to this question. That is, I think Matthew likely had multiple reasons for highlighting these women at the beginning of his gospel. In this post, I have no intention of being exhaustive because that would be exhausting.

Who is Tamar? Continue reading “Advent, Christmas and the Nativity Part VI: Strange Women or Xenophobia & Genealogy “

Advent, Christmas and the Nativity Part IV: Jesus, Why Don’t Your Disciples Wash Their Hands? Were You Born in a Barn?

The popular version of the Christmas story has a full-term Mary riding into Bethlehem on a donkey. When Mary and Joseph arrive in town, they are told that the local inn is full and must settle for a nearby barn for shelter. That very night, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, Jesus. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.

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In Part III, I addressed the problem that there is no “inn” in Luke’s narrative. The word that is translated inn is more accurately translated “guest room”. The idea of the inn likely comes from the British imagination which is also the likely source of the assumption that the manger must be located in a barn. In a way, it is a bit surprising that a Pub never worked its way into the popular narrative. And after Jesus was born, Joseph went to the local pub and handed out cigars. (The New Cockney Version) No, maybe not. Continue reading “Advent, Christmas and the Nativity Part IV: Jesus, Why Don’t Your Disciples Wash Their Hands? Were You Born in a Barn?”

Advent, Christmas, and Nativity Part III: Because there was no room in the . . . Hey, where’s the Inn?

In the previous post in this Advent series, I suggested that Mary was not likely full-term on the 70 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. So, she was a lighter load for the little donkey that may or may not have made the journey with them. I have also saved Joseph, the patron Saint of Canada, from any accusations of being so insensitive as to make his full-term wife ride a donkey.

It is possible that Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem.But depending on how far along she was in her pregnancy, she may have even have walked at leisure alongside her husband. Is that such a bad picture to have leading up to the Nativity? These newlyweds strolling along the path to Bethlehem, enjoying one another’s company, and talking about plans for the future. Maybe Joseph was filling his wife in on the quirks of his family in Bethlehem. Continue reading “Advent, Christmas, and Nativity Part III: Because there was no room in the . . . Hey, where’s the Inn?”