A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sunday Scripture Commentary - December 7

Sermon - "Reclaim Christmas: Giving Up on Perfect"

Isaiah 40:3-5, 8-9

The prophet is offering hope to the people who are living during the Babylonian Exile.

vv. 3-5 - A voice calls out for a miraculous sacred highway to go through the wilderness so that the exiles will be able to return to their homeland.

This passage has been made famous by Handel's "Messiah." This was first performed in 1742 and in just ten years became one of the most popular pieces of music in England. This was during the same time period when John Wesley and the early Methodists were reaching more and more people through their organizations of small groups and societies.

vv. 6-8 - We are reminded that God's word will stand forever.

Luke 1:26-36

This scripture focuses on the annunciation of the birth of Jesus. This story tells us that Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb before she had any sexual relations. Some people assume that only modern day people are skeptical of this story because of the advancement of science. Even though people in the ancient world didn't know about x chromosomes and y chromosomes, they weren't ignorant of how babies were made. This would have been as much of a miracle to their ears as to ours.

Matthew and Luke's versions of this story are different in many ways which leads us to believe that this wasn't a story that was inserted into the story of Jesus decades earlier. If this was a later story that had been imposed into the story of Jesus, why wouldn't they have used one story instead of two? This was probably told very early and not later and some people have suggested.

The key to this story is v. 35 which tells us that the Holy Spirit is who has made this miracle possible.  The most important part of this story for Luke is not that this incredible miracle happened. The important part is that he wants us to know that Jesus' birth will lead to political consequences since this baby is referred to as the Messiah (King.) The Roman world would not take kindly to such a claim.

Is the real reason that people are troubled by the miraculous birth of Jesus due to the fact that he is given the title of Messiah? If Jesus truly is the king of the world, than that has implications for those who are claiming this title for themselves.

[Note: The resources used for these scripture reading commentaries are based on the Everyone series by NT Wright, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, The Wesley Study Bible, and the “Montreal-Anglican”lectionary commentaries.]

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