Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and holidays everyone! I hope your December is full of merriment joy and giving. I thought since Hanukkah is ending soon (tonight I believe) and Christmas coming up I would share my thoughts on some of the origins of the holidays. Of course, since I myself am Christian, I have more incite into Christmas. However, I would like to make a post on Hanukkah if I have time. I’m going to try to read and give my thoughts of the beginning of the first four books of the New Testament in the Bible, which all concern the birth of Jesus the Christ. Afterward I will relate my thoughts back to the modern holiday and what it means to me! Onward!
The first book of the New Testament is Matthew. The segment I will be reading is Matthew chapters 1 and 2. This is from the New Revised Standard Version.
The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah
1 An account of the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah,[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4 and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[c]8 and Asaph[d] the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[e] and Amos[f] the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel,13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.[g]
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah,[h] fourteen generations.
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah[i] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;[j] and he named him Jesus.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Visit of the Wise Men
2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem,2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd[d] my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men[e] and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,[f] until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
The Escape to Egypt
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”14 Then Joseph[h] got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
The Massacre of the Infants
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,[i] he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.[j]17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
The Return from Egypt
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph[k] got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
Matthew is very interesting. It is the first book of the New Testament and one of its main qualities is that it tries to connect the story of Jesus with Jewish traditions and writings. It starts off with a genealogy of Jesus that goes back through David, Moses and Abraham (Interesting note, this is one of two genealogies of Jesus, the other one being in Luke and the are not quite the same). He continues to link Jesus to Jewish writings by referencing different prophets through out the story. Not only does Matthew reference prophets but Jesus makes his way down to Egypt as an infant while King Herod is trying to kill him, just as Moses did. Within the first two chapters of this book we see that the author is making a direct link to Jewish writings, emphasizing Jesus as a continuation of that story and not a new one.
The Christmas portion of this passage is quite small, but there are a few interesting sections I want to point out. First, is when Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus even though she has not married Joseph yet. Joseph was a good, righteous man. He was not going to ridicule her but he was not going to marry her. Yet, he marries her and raises the child as his own.
Later on we see the magi travel long distances to honor a newborn baby with expensive gifts, a baby who was born in a stable, surrounded animals.
These two passages show a complete overturn of what is suppose to happen. Joseph was suppose to abandon a young, pregnant Mary (albeit doing so in the nicest way possible) yet I instead marries her and raises her son. It couldn’t have been easy escaping Herod’s men who looking for their baby nor could it have been easy to move to Egypt. The magi also show a complete overturn of what is suppose to happen. They were wealthy men who could have an audience with the king of the region. Yet, they brought expensive gifts to a poor family in a small, foreign village. Not only did they do that, but they also defied the ruthless king, risking their own lives to help the young baby.
So, how is the Christmas story related to Christmas now? Where do we see it in our lives? Where is the grace shown by Joseph toward Mary when he accepts her and her son as his own? Where are the wealthy magi leaving gifts for the poor family? Where is the small defenseless newborn, born into they humblest situation, destined to continue the tradition of Abraham, Moses and David? Lets focus of these things as we wait for Christmas this year, as we wait for the birth of the Christ.