Jesus an ordinary child? Yes and no

Nativity setA young woman has a baby boy. That baby grows to adulthood and lives 33 years. How many times has that happened in the history of the human race? Millions?

The young woman and her boy were not members of the ruling class. They lived in an unremarkable village about 2000 years ago. He learned an unremarkable trade, and then became an itinerant teacher. Death at 33 was probably not unusual at that time, but this man was executed for his teaching, because the leaders of his community disapproved. Again, it seems pretty ordinary.

Yet today we are still celebrating the birth, life, and death of this man named Jesus.… Read the rest

Saying "no" to ungodliness

Christmas scriptures include many familiar passages, but also thoughts from books not many of us read often, such as an important paragraph from Paul’s epistle to Titus. It gives a very valuable overview of the entire meaning of Jesus coming in the flesh.

Paul says that God’s grace has appeared and offers salvation to all people. One does not have to explore any farther than posts on Old Testament scriptures in this blog to realize that God’s grace extended to Jews and Gentiles alike from the beginning. In particular, the grace revealed before the coming of Christ is what the Wesleyan tradition calls prevenient grace, that is, the grace that goes before.… Read the rest

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us

While the stories of Jesus’ birth provide the narratives and symbolism for the religious observance of Christmas, Christians who attend churches that follow a formal lectionary, at least, hear John 1:1-18 on Christmas day. After all, we do not worship a baby. We do worship a man, but not just any man. We worship the man who from the beginning is also God. Here is what we learn from the appointed reading from John’s gospel:

  • The divine Word, referred to subsequently as “he” and not “it,” existed in the beginning. The divine Word, a person, was somehow both with God and God himself.
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The Visitation: Don’t forget Elizabeth!

Between the dramatic stories of how the angel Gabriel appeared first to Zechariah and then to Mary, Luke mentions that Mary paid a three month long visit to Elizabeth, one of  her blood relatives and Zechariah’s wife. Although artists have painted or otherwise portrayed The Visitation for centuries, it is all too easy to read right past it. So let’s give Elizabeth her due.

Luke says she and her husband were blameless, but they may not have looked blameless to the rest of the people in their community. After all, the old priest Zechariah had never been chosen to light the incense in the temple.… Read the rest

Preparing for the birth of Jesus, image of the invisible God

The season of Advent looks forward to the human birth of Jesus. Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem only because of human sin. The early church leaders who devised the Christian calendar recognized that  it would be inappropriate to celebrate his birth without a season of penitence to prepare for it.

We have forgotten that in our society. Today, we prepare for the birth of Jesus (or maybe just Xmas) by spending money we don’t have for things perhaps no one needs, and in some cases, to give them to people we don’t much like. If we’re not careful, the only times Jesus will intrude on our thoughts will be when we come to church on Sundays or if we happen to notice the Christmas carols piped into the mall.… Read the rest