"God Bless us, Everyone..."
The immortal words of Tiny Tim seem to be the best way to sum up this week's reflection on the Christmas story.
The account of Jesus' birth is given, and best understood by reading the accounts in the early chapters of both Matthew and Luke. Both tell different parts of the story, and are written to different audiences.
I was always taught that we need to read more than just the story when we come to the Bible, and look at who wrote what to whom, what the message was they were trying to convey, and what that means for us, especially as we read it through our cultural lenses.
So what's the Christmas story all about? I think it's about God blessing us, every one.
Here's my initial Facebook comment:
I don't know where I'm going with this, or what I'm supposed to be learning, but this is consciously the first time I've thought about the reason Matthew and Luke introduce the characters they do to the Christmas story:
Gospel of Matthew, written for the Jewish Christians, introduces the travellers from the East, from beyond the culture, heeding a welcoming call, but strangers coming into the story of the Prophesied Messiah...
Gospel of Luke, written for the Gentile Christians, introduces the Shepherds, steeped in history passover significance, working the same fields as David, yet outcasts among their own people...
I guess in the first instance I would have expected it to be the other way round, with the Jewish Audience being reminded of the significance of the history and the promised lamb from the line of David, and the Gentiles being encouraged by these "Aliens" being among the first to see the Word become Flesh.
The promised Messiah was to be the saviour of God's people, the Israelites. He was to be the "Wonderful Counsellor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." This was the redeemer that the Jewish readers of Matthew's Gospel would have been familiar with, expecting God to come in power to bring His people into their promised land, out of slavery, in power and might.
My understanding of Jesus is that he didn't quite fit the bill for what everyone was expecting, and instead of being the Saviour of one people, He was to be the Saviour of all, through His sharing of the heart that God had always had for all of creation.
I think that's possibly one reason why the writers went the way they did:
Matthew wanted to remind the Jewish Christians that they didn't have the monopoly on the baby who was born just because of their blood and, though promised to them and later labelled "King of the Jews", He had come to redeem not only them, but the whole of humanity.
Luke wanted to remind the Gentile Christians of why Jesus had come, of the tradition He was born into, of the enduring faithfulness of the creator God, and of the story they were now part of.
My gut feeling is that we run the risk of doing something similar today.
We run the risk of claiming that this Saviour born is only for us and not for the rest of the world, limiting the extent of God's grace to those within certain church walls, ignoring the fact that there are wise people outside of our church "culture" who are searching for this King, longing to bring their gifts, pay homage and worship this baby born. Wise "foreigners" who understand the story of life, and death, of riches and servanthood, who are ready to bow low when they are introduced to Jesus. We need to be reminded that they are part of our story.
We also run the risk of neglecting the history of the world Jesus was born into. If we don't heed Luke's reminder of the Shepherds, steeped in the history of the fields of the town of David, from whose line Jesus descends, of the birth of the Passover Lamb to be slaughtered at Calvary, blood shed to bring life and liberation, then we miss the point of it all, and we miss the rich history and depth of blessing that it is to know the importance of Jesus birth.
But hey, that's just my reading of it today...
Remarcable is one man blogging about Youth Work, Theology, Family, Life and those other random things that come to mind.