Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Advent 12/19

In this year of Matthew, if we were having a regular service this morning, the gospel appointed for today would be Matthew’s version of the birth story.  We will hear it read later as one of the lessons in this lessons and carols service and you will note that it is much leaner than Luke’s more familiar version that is always the Christmas Eve gospel and you might wonder why.

The truth of the matter is that details concerning Jesus’ birth were probably pretty sketchy so Matthew and Luke tell the story in ways that emphasize what they think is important about Jesus.  Remember that the gospels are not and never were intended to be biographies of Jesus as we think of biography; it’s not to say that there’s no history included in the gospels, certainly there is but still the gospels were primarily intended to convey the truth concerning Jesus as the revelation of God and both Matthew and Luke do that, sometimes in similar ways, but sometimes in quite different ways as is the case with their birth narratives.

In his telling, Matthew quite clearly wants to convince what we presume was a largely Jewish audience that Jesus is the revelation of the one God they believe in so he portrays Jesus using themes and images familiar to people who know the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures.  For example, Matthew is the gospel with the long genealogy at the beginning, you might remember the long list of begats from the King James Version, and while we tend to skim over such long lists of names they are quite common in the Old Testament and a closer look at who’s included and who isn’t included in Matthew’s list reflects the overall message that he is trying to get across.  If you want to know more about that come back tomorrow night for church but for now, suffice it to say that Matthew begins this genealogy with “Abraham begat Isaac” which right off the top links Jesus with the story of the Hebrew patriarchs and then continues with connections to the kings of Judah and other characters of varying degrees of importance.  So the genealogy is one Old Testament tool that Matthew uses.   

In the verses that would have been today’s gospel, you get the announcement to Joseph concerning Jesus’ birth and these verses follow the pattern of Old Testament birth announcements, like the birth of the previously mentioned Isaac as well as Samuel in the book of Judges.  In addition, Joseph is portrayed by Matthew as the recipient of dreams which would make people think of Old Testament Joseph and the escape to Egypt following the visit of the wise men and a warning about King Herod is much like Moses’ escape from Pharaoh.  The use of these themes seems to be too obvious to merely be coincidence so I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that there’s method to what Matthew is up to.  All this plays a role in who he believes Jesus to be and in how he wants us to understand Jesus.

I’ll have more to say about some of these things in future weeks as some of these stories and others come up, but for now, let Matthew’s use of Old Testament imagery serve as an introduction to today’s service that begins with Adam and Eve in the garden and in words and music takes us through prophecies concerning the one who will change the world. 

Rev. Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
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not me
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