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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The chronological Christmas story
The chronological Christmas story

How well do we actual know our Christmas story. For example what is the chronology, the timeline on which it occurred?

It all starts with this angel, Gabriel...

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee. 27 He was sent to a virgin. The girl was engaged to a man named Joseph. He came from the family line of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel greeted her and said, “The Lord has blessed you in a special way. He is with you.”29 Mary was very upset because of his words. She wondered what kind of greeting this could be. Luke 1:26-35

 Upset? How often did you notice that word before? Nazareth was a village and everyone knew everyone. The out-of-towners would often have meant trouble. The tax collectors, bureaucrats and soldiers were probably the more common out-of-towners. None of these were pleasant.  Being noticed normally portended disaster in these small communities. It is no wonder Mary encountering a stranger who made this type of statement found it upsetting. Notice she didn’t jump to conclusion this was an angel either (or maybe she did, but she doesn’t show anything other than disturbance at the unusual greeting).

30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary. God is very pleased with you. 31 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king like his father David of long ago. 33 The Son of the Most High God will rule forever over his people. They are from the family line of Jacob. That kingdom will never end.”34 “How can this happen?” Mary asked the angel. “I am a virgin.”35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come to you. The power of the Most High God will cover you. So the holy one that is born will be called the Son of God.

 Big statements for a small town rural girl to accept aren’t they? Let’s remember Mary wasn’t a sophisticated city educated women, just a simple country girl.What was going on around Mary at the time?Herod was king of Judea. During the time he was ruling, there was a priest named Zechariah. He belonged to a group of priests named after Abijah. His wife Elizabeth also came from the family line of Aaron. Both of them did what was right in the sight of God. They obeyed all the Lord’s commands and rules faithfully. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was not able to have any. And they were both very old.

One day Zechariah’s group was on duty. He was serving as a priest in God’s temple. He happened to be chosen, in the usual way, to go into the temple of the Lord. There he was supposed to burn incense. 10 The time came for this to be done. All who had gathered to worship were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah. The angel was standing at the right side of the incense altar. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was amazed and terrified. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard.  

Zechariah seems to have more difficulty than Mary on seeing this angel doesn’t he? This guy is terrified! Thinking back on the encounter with Mary, either Mary was slow to catch-on, or the angel appeared in a more common form to her.

Your wife Elizabeth will have a child. It will be a boy, and you must call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you. His birth will make many people very glad. 15 He will be important in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or other such drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will prepare the way for the Lord. He will have the same spirit and power that Elijah had. He will bring peace between parents and their children. He will teach people who don’t obey to be wise and do what is right. In this way, he will prepare a people who are ready for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man, and my wife is old too.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I serve God. I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will have to be silent. You will not be able to speak until after John is born. That’s because you did not believe my words. They will come true at the time God has chosen.”

21 During that time, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the temple. They wondered why he stayed there so long. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple. They knew this because he kept gesturing to them. He still could not speak.23 When his time of service was over, he returned home. 24 After that, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She stayed at home for five months. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days, he has been kind to me. He has taken away my shame among the people.”

Elizabeth was pregnant for five months, and it was about a month after that when the Angel spoke to Mary.

Your relative Elizabeth will have a child even though she is old. People thought she could not have children. But she has been pregnant for six months now. 37 That’s because what God says will always come true.”

38 “I serve the Lord,” Mary answered. “May it happen to me just as you said it would.” Then the angel left her.

Mary gets up and goes to see Elizabeth. She probably needed to walk there and so  a few days passed. My understanding is the Judean hills are about 100 plus kilometers (60 miles) from Nazareth.

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in Judea’s hill country. 40 There she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby inside her jumped. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she called out, “God has blessed you more than other women. And blessed is the child you will have! 43 But why is God so kind to me? Why has the mother of my Lord come to me? 44 As soon as I heard the sound of your voice, the baby inside me jumped for joy. 45 You are a woman God has blessed. You have believed that the Lord would keep his promises to you!”

Elizabeth knows something different is happening with Mary, before Mary tells her.

Then we have those extraordinary words of Mary...

46 Mary said,

“My soul gives glory to the Lord.
47     My spirit delights in God my Savior.
48 He has taken note of me
    even though I am not considered important.
From now on all people will call me blessed.

49     The Mighty One has done great things for me.
    His name is holy.
50 He shows his mercy to those who have respect for him,
    from parent to child down through the years.
51 He has done mighty things with his powerful arm.
    He has scattered those who are proud in their deepest thoughts.
   But he has lifted up people who are not considered important.
53 He has filled with good things those who are hungry.
    But he has sent away empty those who are rich.
54 He has helped the people of Israel, who serve him.
    He has always remembered to be kind
55 to Abraham and his children down through the years.
    He has done it just as he promised to our people of long ago.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Then she returned home.

3 months plus 6 months suggest Mary stayed until Elizabeth was at full term and had her child.

57 The time came for Elizabeth to have her baby. She gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very kind to her. They shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day, they came to have the child circumcised. They were going to name him Zechariah, like his father. 60 But his mother spoke up. “No!” she said. “He must be called John.”

Mary probably left the birth being 6 months pregnant herself so travelling was now starting to get  difficult. Also, lets realize Joseph was probably back home making money for their future life and not with her at the time. This cannot have been easy for him. Then she arrives back home pregnant!

How do you think that made him feel?

But before they started to live together, it became clear that she was going to have a baby. She became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph was faithful to the law. But he did not want to put her to shame in public. So he planned to divorce her quietly.

20 But as Joseph was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. The baby inside her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She is going to have a son. You must give him the name Jesus. That’s because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1

I guess this angel had to do this, or Joseph would have been unable to look after Mary, or he may even have had her stoned (common for adultery at the time). He must have been a nice gentle guy. Perhaps a bit older than Mary?

Okay, now Joseph is on-board and working together with Mary. It still must have been difficult. Engaged, but not married! The marriage had to be consummated (they had to have sex) before it would have been considered legal, so while she was pregnant, and they weren’t having sex, he wasn’t properly married to her. they we betrothed only!

22 All this took place to bring about what the Lord had said would happen. He had said through the prophet, 23 “The virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son.
And he will be called Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The name Immanuel means “God with us.”
24 Joseph woke up. He did what the angel of the Lord commanded him to do. He took Mary home as his wife.
25 But he did not sleep with her until she gave birth to a son.
And Joseph gave him the name Jesus.

Jesus and Immanuel together defined the following:

      God with us
      God will liberate and save us

Jesus’ name (Greek by the way) in some way defined his life.

What happened next...

2 In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to their own town to be listed.

So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby. While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay.

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were taking care of their sheep.

The travel to Bethlehem must have been tough on a pregnant girl. She wouldn’t probably have gone in her last month as the risk would have been too great. Probably in the eight month or thereabouts. They probably stayed with family as Joseph was going back to his home town.

What about the Inn? I hear you say!

No inn folk, that was a misinterpretation of old versions of the bible. Never more accurate translations have corrected that to guest room. They probably stayed in with family, but the families guest room was already occupied so they were in with the rest of the family.

Out in the fields around town things were happening...

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were taking care of their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news. It will bring great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said,

14 “May glory be given to God in the highest heaven!
    And may peace be given to those he is pleased with on earth!”

15 The angels left and went into heaven. Then the shepherds said to one another, “

Let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby. The baby was lying in the manger. 17 After the shepherds had seen him, they told everyone. They reported what the angel had said about this child. 18 All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Then Mary needed to follow the law.

The time came for making Mary “clean” as required by the Law of Moses. So Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem. There they presented him to the Lord. 23 In the Law of the Lord it says, “The first boy born in every family must be set apart for the Lord.”
 
(Exodus 13:2,12) 24 They also offered a sacrifice. They did it in keeping with the Law, which says, “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Leviticus 12:8)

25 In Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was a good and godly man. He was waiting for God’s promise to Israel to come true. The Holy Spirit was with him. 26 The Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 The Spirit led him into the temple courtyard. Then Jesus’ parents brought the child in. They came to do for him what the Law required. 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God.

Mary and Joseph must have been amazed.

Then just as they are asking themselves if this was an isolated crazy case, this happens.

36 There was also a prophet named Anna. She was the daughter of Penuel from the tribe of Asher. Anna was very old. After getting married, she lived with her husband seven years. 37 Then she was a widow until she was 84. She never left the temple. She worshiped night and day, praying and going without food. 38 Anna came up to Jesus’ family at that moment. She gave thanks to God. And she spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the time when Jerusalem would be set free.

I guess the whole are heard of this event. That must have scared Mary and Joseph!

Anyhow they stay put with the relatives and I guess Joseph gets some work in Bethlehem.

Then in the land the King gets visitors.

2 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea. This happened while Herod was king of Judea. After Jesus’ birth, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose. Now we have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled too. So Herod called together all the chief priests of the people. He also called the teachers of the law. He asked them where the Messiah was going to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied. “This is what the prophet has written. He said,

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are certainly not the least important among the towns of Judah.
A ruler will come out of you.
    He will rule my people Israel like a shepherd. (Micah 5:2)

Then Herod secretly called for the Wise Men. He found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem. He said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report it to me. Then I can go and worship him too.”

It is always assumed the wise men met Herod in Jerusalem. What would have been secret about that? There is another theory that they probably met him secretly at Herodium, his other residence a bit out of town. This isn’t unlikely. He probably wanted the foreigners out of town so rumours would not be substantiated. After all, they came to see the King, he was the King. Wouldn’t it be good if they left town to come and see him?

I guess that’s Herod putting “spin” on the truth.

He send them off as his spies (unwitting spies that is)

After the Wise Men had listened to the king, they went on their way. The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them. It finally stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then
their treasures. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 But God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. So they returned to their country on a different road.
13 When the Wise Men had left, Joseph had a dream. In the dream an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you to come back. Herod is going to search for the child. He wants to kill him.”

14 So Joseph got up. During the night, he left for Egypt with the child and his mother Mary. 15 They stayed there until King Herod died. So the words the Lord had spoken through the prophet came true. He had said, “I brought my son out of Egypt.” (Hosea 11:1)

16 Herod realized that the Wise Men had tricked him. So he became very angry. He gave orders about Bethlehem and the area around it. He ordered all the boys two years old and under to be killed. This agreed with the time when the Wise Men had seen the star.

Notice the 2 years. Jesus was a toddler by now. Herod misses out on killing him and God incarnate fulfills every prophecy about himself.

That’s the Christmas story folk. Maybe not quite the way you want to hear it, but you can check it out, it follows the timeline.

How about we face the truth this Christmas?
Tue, December 23, 2014 | link          Comments


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 RiftInEvil.gifThe town of Zinaville is dropped into a spiral of evil causing a young man and a beautiful but abused woman to launch into an investigation that unveils an evil conspiracy.

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