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Archive for the ‘Lukean Studies’ Category

When we sit down and read the Christmas story, as recorded for us in Luke, around our cozy living rooms surrounded by friends and families with warm drinks in our hands we often don’t pick up on the subversive nature of the story being read.  While sitting in our pews and holding our candles, raising them at the crescendo of our favorite Christmas hymns, we often miss the political message we are proclaiming.  Yet, the birth narrative is as political and subversive as they come.  Caesar Augustus, whom is referred to at the front end of the story, is regarded as the divine son of god who proclaims good news of salvation, peace, and victory (or peace through victory).  The Roman empire, as every empire does, promised that if one would submit to their rule, though oppressive, you will experience peace, stability, and (ah em) freedom.  And the more peace and stability one would experience, the more one, whether explicitly or implicitly, would revere the great lord Caesar all the more. (more…)

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The Lesser to Be Greater

The Gospel lessons this year come predominately from Luke, thus this is where my studies have been focused.  It is well known that Luke is constantly showing how the marginalized are exalted in God’s Kingdom as clearly displayed in life of Jesus, showing that the lesser will be greater.  It is intriguing how Luke constructs the story in the first few chapters to show the reality that the lesser will be greater in the interplay between the birth of John and Jesus.  I will highlight a few of these areas in what follows.

First, Elizabeth and Zechariah, though commoners, are a married priestly family, thus having some status in the community.  On the other hand Mary, probably around 12 or 13 years old, and Joseph (Joseph plays little to no role in Luke’s narrative besides that of being a descendant of David) are not married, though betrothed, and are relative nobodies, with Mary being impregnated by the Holy Spirit (imagine explaining that one to your mother).  Though both Elizabeth’s and Mary’s pregnancies are miraculous, Mary’s is much more scandalous do the fact that she is not legally married, thus pushing her closer to the margins. Moreover, John is born earlier than Jesus, thus being the elder of the two (echos of the Jacob/ Esau story).  John’s birth is somewhat normal in that family and friends are witnesses and celebrants, as would be expected – though it is certainly mixed with the miraculous.  Jesus’ birth is celebrated by angels and lowly shepherds in a small town barn – again to a now newly wed, preteen girl who became pregnant before married.  Yet, out of this “nothingness,” being born to a faithful “nobody” the Son of God has come to “proclaim good news to the poor…freedom for the prisoners…sight for the blind…set the oppressed free…(and) proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (4:18-19) –  take that Caesar.  Surely, Mary’s prophetic song become reality in that “(God) has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (1:46-55).  Jesus emerges from these stories as the greater, though being born in a more humble state, of course setting the stage for John playing his part as the one who “prepares the way of the Lord.”

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