Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Too Much Wine?

There’s a passage in John’s gospel, chapter 2, that is attractive to those of us who enjoy wine. But of course, this being written by John, there are hidden meanings that are much richer than this surface story — or a good Burgundy or Merlot. What was John getting across? How did Jesus’ miracle of

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Only a Shepherd

Shepherds aren't the most socially-acceptable people, even in the best of times. They work outside, with smelly animals, they get dirty, and frankly, the smell of the sheep tends to rub off on them. Even when you stand upwind from a shepherd, you can find reasons to cringe. In the time of Jesus' birth, shepherds were

Monday, December 31, 2018

Watch Out, Oppressors! Oh yeah, and the rest of us too...

Last time we looked at the first half of Mary's prophetic words, celebrating that she was bearing the Messiah in her womb, in Luke 1:46-50. That God is mighty and holy, and merciful, and that he took a humble village girl, still a teenager, into his magnificent plan for humanity, is the general theme of the first half. She could have stopped there and we'd all have been

My Soul Magnifies...

Mary's prophecy in Luke 1:46-55 is justifiably famous. One of the few formally-structured speeches in scripture by a woman, and in the form of a psalm (see for instance, Psalm 8), this is praise  to God in thanks for his work ("he who is mighty has done great things for me", v 49) and in recognition of God's goodness "to those who fear him", v. 50.

True to Luke's emphasis in his two books, the Holy Spirit is shown leading Elizabeth to bless Mary (v. 42-45). It seems in context to give credit to the Holy Spirit for Mary's song of praise also. We could imagine that Mary had been thinking of some of these words during her trip to see her cousin, and holding on to these words (see 2:51b), giving them to Luke years later, perhaps for more literary stylizing as well.

The first portion, 46-49, is a joyful song of praise to the Lord. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name." It seems a little forward to imagine "all generations" referring to her in the future, but again, this is formal speech, and as it turns out, she was right.

What can we learn from this? Several different lessons, I believe. First, the responsibility, or perhaps better, the opportunity or privilege, of thanking God for what he does for us; recognizing his generosity, as a child would thank a parent for an ice-cream cone. Second, that we can gain a humble perspective by reflecting on his power and authority, ("he who is mighty") which is so far above ours, yet he takes notice of us and wishes to bless us ("has done great things for me").

The second half of this song has a more difficult tone, and we'll look at that tomorrow.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mary, Did You Really Know?

Many little girls dream of their marriage to a handsome young man, a life filled with joy and the adventure of raising children. This was little different in the time of Mary and Joseph, with a couple of notable extras. First, they were under the thumb of a ruthless foreign power, taxed to death and never really safe from

Friday, December 28, 2018

Doing and Disbelief

Looking at some of the "supporting actors" in the drama of the Incarnation, in Matthew's and Luke's accounts, we see how they responded to the unique and surprising situations they lived in. Might there be some application in our lives? Perhaps. Let's

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"Anything but God"

CS Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” Isn’t that a very brief but very accurate description of human history? “The woman was convinced. She saw that