Sunday, October 18, 2009

Away in a Manger (New Testament Blog Post)

So, about two weeks ago, I walked into my apartment to Michael Buble singing "Let it Snow," followed by Christmas song after Christmas song. For my roommates, the Christmas season evidently starts at the beginning of October. This irritated me at first, but as I've thought about it, I realized, why confine the joy we feel at our Savior's birth to one month of the year? We owe Him gratitude and praise every day of the year, not just during December. So along those lines, here is my blog post for today.

Looking at the two birth narratives in the New Testament (Matthew and Luke), I found it interesting that neither narrative contains “the whole story” as we commonly hear it. The main elements of our Nativity story seem to be split fairly evenly between these two books. Matthew starts with Mary becoming pregnant by the Holy Ghost, (1:18) and Joseph’s reaction to this. I really admire Joseph’s behavior in this story. First, when Joseph discovers his fiancĂ©e is pregnant, instead of making “a publick example”, he determines to “put her away privily” (Matthew 1:19) so that her life and reputation won’t be completely shattered. Then, when the Lord’s angel tells him of Jesus’ parentage and commands him to wed Mary, he immediately obeys, disregarding any personal cost to himself.

Next Matthew tells the story of the wise men. In Matthew 2, the Wise Men come to Herod and ask, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:3). Herod sends them to Bethlehem, where they find Jesus and his mother, bringing the famous gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, (Matthew 2:11). The Lord warns them not to return to Herod, and tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to save Christ from Herod’s slaughter.

Luke’s birth narrative describes the births of both Jesus and John the Baptist, alternating descriptions of each. Luke shows Gabriel’s announcement to Zacharias and then to Mary, demonstrating Zacharias’ unbelief and Mary’s strong faith. He shows the visit of Mary and Elizabeth, when Elizabeth declares the holiness of Mary’s unborn child and Mary praises the Lord for her blessings (Luke 1). Then, Luke tells of John’s birth, and his naming. In Luke 2, we read the famous Nativity story: Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem for their taxes, but since there is “no room for them in the inn,” (Luke 2:7), they stay in a stable, where Mary gives birth. The angels announce this glorious news to shepherds, who come “with haste” to worship their newly born Savior” (Luke 2:16).

To me, Matthew’s account seems to focus mostly on Christ’s kingly and Davidic origins and His role as King of the Jews, especially the story of the Magi and Herod. Luke’s account seems to center mostly around Mary and her reaction to the birth, as well as the reaction of common people (the shepherds, Simeon, Anna). However, both narratives assert the divinity of Jesus Christ. Matthew quotes Gabriel as saying, “He shall save the people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Luke records Simeon’s words, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32). Though Matthew and Luke emphasize different events in their respective narratives, both make it clear that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

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