Being Simeon

In today gospel account, it is now forty days after Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph are performing their duty as pious Jewish parents by coming to the Temple to fulfill the requirements of Exodus 13. It is a ritual that reminds the parents that this child is now a member of the family that God redeemed from the slavery in Egypt. And so, they come to offer a simple sacrifice as they dedicate their first-born child to the Lord and to the larger, holy covenant family of God. Continue reading

Living the Dream

King David – living the dream! I mean who could have imagined?  The Lord God had sent his prophet Samuel out to anoint the one who would be king – and the young shepherd David was selected among all of Jesse’s sons – the one to be king of Israel and all of God’s chosen people.  And the Lord had been with David on the battlefield as he stood before the giant warrior Goliath.  The Lord had stayed with David when he was a wanted man on the run from the murderous hand of King Saul. The Lord had guided David as be took on the mantle of leadership and had united the 12 tribes of Jacob into one nation. And now David was king. Continue reading

From Advent to Christmas…

We are doing something special this year – single bulletin for the holidays! One issue to cover the fourth Sunday of Advent, Christmas, and the Feast of the Holy Family—and crossing into the New Year! I thought it was a good idea and a time saver for the staff who produce the bulletin—seemed like a great thing. And then I figured out I might have to write a column that spoke to the whole period. Hmmmm? Continue reading

Annunciation: how can this be?

TheAnnunciationIn response to this angelic announcement, Mary asks a question reminiscent of Zechariah’s query, “How can this be?” She had not had sexual relations with a man. Ultimately, the purpose of Mary’s question (v.34)—which leads to Gabriel’s answer (v.35) and the giving of a sign (v.36) and word of reassurance (v.37)—is to emphasize that all of this is God’s doing.

Gabriel’s response emphasizes that the baby would be born by the power of God. Like the presence of God in the cloud at the transfiguration (9:34), the Holy Spirit would come upon her and overshadow her. The child, therefore, would be God’s child, and he would be called the Son of God. As with all the annunciations in Scripture and in ancient biographical accounts, the purpose of the annunciation is to declare something vital about the identity of the child. The Lukan account repeatedly affirms that Mary’s son would be called “Son of the Most High” (v. 32a), son of David (v. 32b), and finally the title by which he would be most widely recognized, “Son of God” (v. 35). Continue reading

Annunciation: favored and troubled

TheAnnunciationConfluence. Luke’s narrative style is on display as he deftly moves from the “annunciation” concerning John the Baptist to the one concerning the salvation of all humanity. There is a confluence of temporal and chronological markers, and the reappearance of Gabriel. The “sixth month” recalls v.24, and seems to imply that Elizabeth has only now come out of seclusion. This prepares for the sharing of the news of her pregnancy in v.36 and her subsequent welcome of Mary (vv.39–45). Yet geographically and socio-religiously we move away from the center (Jerusalem and the Temple) to the margins of the nations (Nazareth in Galilee). Gabriel, God’s messenger, is the connector, pointing to the God’s Word active in the world. Continue reading

Annunciations

TheAnnunciationSimilar, yet… In many respects our gospel (Luke 1:26-38) is similar to the annunciation of the birth of John. The angel Gabriel appears to announce the birth of the child, and the annunciation follows the pattern of birth annunciations in the OT: The angel says, “Do not be afraid,” calls the recipient of the vision by name, assures him or her of God’s favor, announces the birth of the child, discloses the name of the child to be born, and reveals the future role of the child in language drawn from the Scriptures. After their respective announcements, Zechariah and Mary each ask a question, a sign is given, and the scene closes with a departure. The similarity of structure and content between the two scenes invites the reader to consider the differences between them all the more closely. For example, the first announcement came as an answer to fervent prayer; the second was completely unanticipated. John would be born to parents past the age of child bearing, but the miracle of Jesus’ birth would be even greater. Jesus would be born to a virgin. The announcement of Jesus’ future role also shows that at every point Jesus would be even greater than his forerunner. Watch how these nuances are developed in the course of the details of this scene. Note this narrative comparison also punctuates the beginning of Mark’s gospel which has no infancy narrative: John the Baptist is not the Christ, not Elijah, not the prophet to come, and not worthy to loosen the strap of the sandal of the one who is to come. Continue reading

The Annunciation – context

TheAnnunciationLuke 1:26-38  26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Continue reading

Towards Light, Into Trust

I feel sorry for the Levites, the scribes and the Pharisees that were sent from Jerusalem to investigate all the commotion and buzz surrounding John, the one baptizing out in the wilderness at the Jordan River.  Israel has a history of people coming along and claiming to be the Messiah – the people get caught up in the fervor and are just sure that this is the One to Come who will lead the army that throws off the yoke of the occupying army and re-establish the throne of David.  The cycle is this:  a self-professed Messiah appears, all the world runs to him, the revolution starts, foreign armies come and crush the rebellion, and in the end, it was a false Messiah.  So, you can see why the Jerusalem authorities send investigators down to the Jordan river to ask John: who are you, what are your intentions.  The religious authorities in Jerusalem have a responsibility to acclaim the Messiah when he comes, but there is this legacy of false messiah, misplaced hope, and people needlessly dying – all for naught. So…. They seek out John – once again wondering if the promise of the Messiah is true. Continue reading