Thursday, 17 December 2015

Hope is on the way 14: The Christmas story by Luke

Tia knowed for Rebekah and they came to Lawrence house. However Lawrence came to the chapel very early as he was too excited to see is coming next. Pete, Louise and Lydia oh and of Elizabeth was there waiting for Rebekah an Tia.

I do wonder what we are going to learn today. Do you? Well shall we read on?

Rebekah came into the Chapel and said very loudly, “I want to know the Christmas story.”

Eizabeth said “ In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


Earlier this year, I was privileged to spend an afternoon in one of the world’s great art museums, where I stumbled across a temporary exhibition of religious art and iconography. Among the ideas and discoveries sparked that afternoon was the tradition in Christian history that the gospel writer Luke might also have been an artist, who could well have painted portraits of the characters in the gospel story. Like so many traditions, this idea grew out of proportion and, at the height of medieval Christianity, churches across the Christian world claimed hundreds of paintings credited to “St. Luke.”

Despite no evidence for this in the Bible itself, this possibility caught my imagination. Imagine if there were original paintings of Jesus, His disciples, and other characters in the story. Imagine if “The Gospel According to Luke” was originally an illustrated biography.

Prompted by these imaginings, I recently re-read Luke’s gospel story with an eye to his descriptions and portrayal of scenes, people, and stories. And there are some powerful pictures, of which one particularly caught my attention in the context of our annual re-telling of the Christmas story.
At the beginning of this story of Jesus—a scene unique to Luke’s history—two women met to compare notes on the strange things happening to them (see Luke 1:39–45). One, Elizabeth, has found herself pregnant at an age beyond the usual years of childbearing, but with a promise that hers was to be a special child. But in welcoming her much-younger cousin, she also recognized something world-changing going on.

Sparked by this interaction, Mary broke into a song that for its poetry could have readily fitted into the Book of Psalms, and for its intent stands firmly in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets. She acknowledged the blessing of God and the incredible nature of what was happening to them. And she recognized the goodness and power of God that was working to bring change to the world, announcing a new upside-down kind of kingdom that was about to be realized: “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty” (Luke 1:52, 53, NLT).

It is a beautiful song of revolution (see Luke 1:46–55). Except that it is absurd.

Two peasant women—one old, tired, perennially disappointed and pregnant; the other an unmarried teenage girl, inexplicably and scandalously pregnant—in a small village in the hills of Judea singing about how their “miracle” boys were going to change the world, begin to undo all the injustices in the world, to challenge the empires and kings of the day, to begin to set the world right. On almost any reading of this story and its expected outcomes, it is ridiculous. That both their sons would lose their lives in the process underlines the farce.

Which is why it’s also a demonstration of faith and a challenge to our understanding of Jesus.
That their song is recorded, that we know their names today is remarkable enough. But that this actually was a step toward changing the world has been borne out in the history of our world since. That their song and this story continues to resonate and bring change in lives and in places of injustice today is something worth believing.

It’s quite a scene painted by Luke with words, with poetry, with storytelling. Imagine him painting it with colors and shades and shapes. Imagine him writing notes and making quick sketches as Mary might have described her memories of that day to him, perhaps some years after Jesus had returned to heaven. And imagine us as observers of this scene, and even as participants, similarly awed and inspired by what God did in Jesus in our world.

We are heirs of this prophetic and faithful tradition, re-telling these stories, rehearsing these songs, re-enacting these scenes; and responding to the call to understand the story of Jesus as changing the world, challenging the powerful, and lifting up the oppressed, the humble, and the hungry.
That’s a scene worth painting, preaching, and living.”

Elizabeth ended the book club by putting this Video on YouTube.

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