Signpost for Advent 4, Sunday 22 Dec, 2013: Isa 7:10-16; Rom 1:1-7; Matt 1:18-25
The rather stroppy opening to this week’s gospel makes it look as if Matthew is claiming that his version of events is the only true one. Funny that, because Luke tells Theophilus that he’s setting the record straight no matter what he might have heard to the contrary.
Matthew makes Joseph out to be a very decent bloke indeed but he doesn’t say Jesus was born in a stable, laid in a manger or wrapped in swaddling clothes. As far as he’s concerned Mary and Joseph lived in Bethlehem and Mary had a home birth (Matt 2:11).
Luke is the one who thinks there was no room at the inn and he has just a few shepherds turn up to greet the newborn Jesus, no wise men, no gifts, no star. Maybe he thought he was asking enough of Theophilus to go along with the story as he tells it. But no wonder we’ve meshed Matthew and Luke’s stories together in our heads. Either one on its own would be less delightful as a nativity play.
At our church last week we had a splendid nativity play based on the idea that the innkeeper told the local children to make sure they welcomed strangers from out of town but also to make sure they didn’t bring any visitors to the inn because it was already chock a block. The kids, of course, were just trying to be helpful when they did bump into Joseph and Mary wandering the streets. They took them straight to the safety of the inn because, “You have be careful in Bethlehem since that Samaritan got beaten up and robbed just down the road.”
Now if it had been somebody’s first time ever in church last Sunday, would they go away thinking that was the real story? It’s not the accuracy of the Christmas story that matters though, is it. It’s the enormity of remembering that the day Yeshua was born was the beginning of a life that has transformed so much for so many.
P.S. This is the last Signpost of 2013. We start again in February. I know we are all already missing Brye’s contributions, but the good news is that we can all look forward to Sheila’s Signposts in the New Year. We both feel we have a lot to live up to; we’ll do our best. For now, may the Lord bless you and watch over you, may the Lord make his face shine upon you. And Happy Birthday, Jesus, I’m looking forward to your party.