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


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

Angelic moments

josephangel“…Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18) And of course, we know the rest of the story… the angel comes and tells Joseph what is expected of him – to take Mary and the child into his home – to be husband and father. “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24). Great! Problem solved and now we can turn the page to Matthew 2 because in that chapter Jesus is born, the magi visit and we are all set for Christmas. Continue reading

Do angels sing?

hark-the-herald-angels-singStores, offices, and all kinds of places are filled with the sound of familiar and heartening Christmas carols. Some local radio stations are all Christmas music all the time with classic and modern renditions of the secular and religious carols and songs – sometimes as recorded by singing chipmunks.  It becomes part of the ambiance of our Advent season; part of what readies us for the celebration of Christmas.  Continue reading

Emmanuel” God’s plan

TheAnnunciationGod’s Plan. Joseph’s plans are interrupted in vv.20–23 by the appearance of a messenger from God in a dream — a device familiar from the Old Testament account of the birth of Samson (Judges 13). The first words uttered are “do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” The angel gives an explanation for Mary’s pregnancy, announcing the divine plan is already in motion. The angel also informs Joseph of his part in the divine plan: “you are to name him Jesus.” As explained above, this simple directive makes clear to Joseph that he is to claim Jesus as his own. As the legal son of Joseph, Jesus will be a “Son of David” (v. 20). Continue reading

Emmanuel: my son

TheAnnunciationJoseph and Jesus. Matthew’s gospel does not describe the birth of Jesus, but explains his origin (the virgin conception) and his name in relation to a specific Old Testament prophecy. The passage concentrates entirely on the experiences of Joseph rather than those of Mary. Even the miraculous conception of Jesus is related only as its discovery affected Joseph. This remarkable concentration, compared with the complete silence on Joseph elsewhere, indicates Matthew’s concern to establish Jesus’ legal lineage through Joseph, i.e. to explain how the preceding genealogy applies to Jesus the son of Mary. Continue reading

Emmanuel: more context

TheAnnunciation22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23)

A key element of the biblical context is Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7:14 in v.23 of the gospel. In the Christian understanding, we are called to see the prophesy given centuries before to Isaiah now come to messianic fulfillment in Jesus. The first reading for this Advent Sunday, Isaiah 7:10-14, contains the kernel of the Matthean reference: The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God (Is 7:10) Continue reading