The “War on Christmas” and Jewish-Christian Dialogue
My wife and I visited our local Costco this weekend to get a good deal on a vacuum, only to be greeted by rows of fake LED-lighted Christmas trees, a life-size nutcracker, and a giant wire reindeer. Apparently the Christmas season began October 1st this year! Which makes Anthony Le Donne’s new book especially timely.
In Near Christianity, Le Donne offers us an important primer on Jewish-Christian dialogue. He takes us to the borders of the faith to help us understand and sympathize with those who remain “near Christianity.” Perhaps there’s no better time to consider this nearness than the season from Black Friday to Christmas Day.
In a chapter highlighting the dynamics at work between Christians and religious minorities during Advent, Le Donne asks us to consider…
Advent: Promise and Fulfillment (I) [Awakening Faith]
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:22 – 23)
God established a time for his promises and a time for their fulfillment. The time for promises was in the time of the prophets, until John the Baptist; from John until the end is the time of fulfillment.
God, who is faithful, put himself in our debt, not by receiving anything from us, but by promising so much. But a promise from his mouth was not sufficient for him; he chose to commit himself in writing as well, as if making a contract of his promises. He produced an account of the promises and their fulfillment, so that we could read…
Kostenberger on the Incarnation in John’s Gospel
I've recently been studying the Gospel of John, and yesterday I came across a brilliant summary of the incarnation in Kostenberger's A Theology of John's Gospel and Letters, which I thought was worth sharing here.
Feel free to add your own thoughts on the summary below!
"John views creation as the first, inaugural act of salvation history and bases his account of Jesus' coming into the world (i.e., the incarnation, John's equivalent of the Synoptic narrative of the virgin birth) on this primal act.
By this John highlights Jesus' unparalleled relationship with God the Creator and presents him as the exclusive and unique agent of God, who is his self expression – an extension, as it were (rightly understood), of his…
Why a Virgin Birth?
"What is the theological significance of the virginal conception? Some have argued it was necessary to protect Jesus’ sinless nature, but the narratives themselves do not indicate this purpose. The Messiah could have entered human life free from sin with or without a virginal conception…
In the final analysis, the details remain a mystery. What is certain from the text is that the conception of Jesus was a supernatural act of God, confirming that God himself was about to accomplish the salvation which no human being could achieve.”
– from Four Portraits, One Jesus by Mark L. Strauss
What about you? What do you say when someone asks why a virgin birth?
The Beauty of the Incarnation
As we reflect on the Incarnation during this Advent season we can easily fall into focusing exclusively on one of two realities, realities that the Church has wrestled to hold in tension from its earliest history.
On the one hand, we can look at the manger and see a baby who isn’t really a baby at all but God merely appearing as a baby, leading us to sing “the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes” and similar verses.
On the other hand we can see a baby who is simply another baby, another child born into a hurting world who may provide a cute picture in the manger, and later bring a message of love, but ultimately in no different than…
The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible: It’s In There (Magi Edition)
But these are simply corrections to popular images of the nativity. More important for our understanding of the text is another question, who exactly were the Magi anyway?
Turning to The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible entry on Magi I found a number of interesting details about these elusive men from the East.
Did you know that Magi were originally a Median tribe who gained great religious power and became an important hereditary priesthood in the…
Was there really no room at the Inn?
We are accustom to Christmas plays and TV specials which feature Joseph and Mary being told “there is no room at the inn” by a burly looking innkeeper who seems insensitive to their situation. As the birth of Jesus comes closer, they make the best of it and hunker down in a stable.
But were there really inns in Bethlehem at all?
“The ‘inn’ (katalyma) was probably not an ancient hotel with an innkeeper, since a small village like Bethlehem would not have had such accommodations. Luke uses a different Greek word in Luke 10:34 for a roadside inn (pandocheion).
The word katalyma normally means either a guest room in a private residence or a caravansary, an informal public…
(Re)Telling the Christmas Story
None of those things are inherently bad, actually some are quite good in and of themselves. But do you ever feel like there is a disconnect between what we do leading up to Advent and those things we profess about it?
I often feel that way. I love the Christmas season, but at times the materialism that defines it is quite disheartening. We do things in our churches to shove down this contradiction, buying goats for villages in Africa or sending out shoeboxes of toys, but in the end the narrative we hear around the Holidays remains the same.
According to the authors of Advent Conspiracy there is another way to approach our celebration of the Messiah’s birth.