Sunday favorites

Sunday favorites December 23, 2012

Luke 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

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  • Kirala

    That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

  • EllieMurasaki

    peace among those whom he favors!

    Back up the broomstick. What?

  • This is actually one situation where I like the King James Version better.  The only time I have heard the “peace only comes to those whom God favors” version was in that was the interpretation taught to us at my Calvinist high school. 

    I disagreed with that interpretation then, and I disagree with it today. 

  • Foreigner

    Can you imagine if that really happened, and every guy in Judea who claimed descent from the house of David rocked up in Bethlehem? Manger? He’s have been lucky to get a horse-trough.

  • flat

    well to God all men are equal, so make of that what will.

  • Well, clearly God did not favor the babies who were slaughtered by Herod, and their grieving families.

    Then again, “historian” Luke appears not to have been aware of that particular tale…

  • Amaryllis

    peace among those whom he favors!

    “For God so loved the world…”

  • Amaryllis

     Yeah, that’s kind of the point. Everybody’s guest rooms were full, but the barn was empty and quiet.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Saying it as ‘those whom he favors’ implies the existence of ‘those whom he does not favor’. I’m used to ‘good will to men’, which, while it has the usual problem about using male terms for a mixed-gender group, is clearly meant to include everybody.

  • Amaryllis

     The way I used to hear it, in my Catholic Christmas masses, was “Peace on earth to men of good will.” Which is to say, peace on earth will come when good will among men (people) is the norm rather than the exception. And, as the old carol has it.
    If you want to know the way, be pleased to hear what he did say.

  • hagsrus

    Moar guns will bring peace on earth…

    Gold, frankincense, and assault rifles.

  • veejayem

    I like to imagine a really excited angel pulling him/itself up short, thinking, “Whoa, dealing with mortals here ~ better reassure them first or they’ll never take anything in.”

  • Foreigner

    … and there’s the point sailing right over your head. There would have been thousands of men in Judea at the time who could claim to be descended from David, and Bethlehem was only a small town. If any of this fulfilling the prophecies afterwards dreck was at all true, the barns would have been full to bursting as well. 

    It’s kind of a point in favour of the historicity of Jesus, actually. If he hadn’t been well known to have been from Galilee, then this kind of ass-pull wouldn’t have been necessary.

  • Amaryllis

     Oh, I see what you mean.

    But, in the tradition in which I was brought up, the point is not “X thousand descendents of David and Y-hundred hotel rooms according to the most recent Chamber of Commerce survey.” In other words, neither infancy narrative is to be taken as literal history.

    (Although I rather like the Catholic tradition which says that Luke  got it all from Mary. Because, after all, who’d know better?)

  • It’s kind of a point in favour of the historicity of Jesus, actually. If
    he hadn’t been well known to have been from Galilee, then this kind of
    ass-pull wouldn’t have been necessary.

    eh… Luke was writing at least 10 and more likely 30 years after Mark, and was copying big chunks of Mark to boot; and Mark portrays Galilee as Jesus’ home. Luke couldn’t really mess with that part of the story regardless of whether Jesus was historical or not.

    A more interesting question is why Luke’s birth narrative is so completely different from Matthew’s. Other than the name “Joseph”, the fact of Mary being a virgin, and the location being Bethlehem to establish the link with David, the stories have pretty much nothing in common – except a piece of verbatim quotation which is slightly out of place in Luke: “… will bear a son, and you (singular) shall call him Jesus”. This is out of place because in Matthew it’s addressed to Joseph, but in Luke it’s addressed to Mary – and naming a son would not have been Mary’s decision, so it should at the very least have been a plural “you”. (The English hides the distinction, but it’s explicit in the Greek.)

    The normal assumption is that Luke and Matthew are independent, in which case they both wrote a birth narrative based on whatever tales were going around at the time – in which case those tales would have to have been remarkably diverse, and the quote a somewhat strange coincidence. On the assumption that Luke had access to Matthew, though, one is forced to conclude that Luke regarded the whole thing as made up, thought he could do better, and went on to prove it – Luke’s version has always dominated in popular culture, albeit with the addition of Matthew’s magi.

    (On the census thing: there apparently was a census of Judea in 6AD under Quirinius, because that was when Judea became a province rather than a client kingdom. The idea that anyone would have to travel anywhere for it at a specific time is a pure invention, though.)

  • ReverendRef

     I like to imagine a really excited angel pulling him/itself up short,
    thinking, “Whoa, dealing with mortals here ~ better reassure them first
    or they’ll never take anything in.”

    I tell my congregation, “Angels are badass scary dudes.  That’s why they ALWAYS say, ‘Fear Not’.”

  • guest

    This painting takes up most of a wall in the Accademia in Venice:

    When I saw it I burst out laughing at the ‘WTF???’ look in Mary’s face.

  • DorothyD

    You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house…

  • Will Hennessy

    Seriuosly. Now I’m sobbing because in my mind, Linus will always be the one reading this. Thanks, Fred….

  • Will Hennessy

     And I prefer the NIV version, oddly enough, though I’d like to insert a comma somewhere in there:

    “…and peace to men(,) on whom His favor rests.”

    …men, of course, being the gender-biased equivalent of humans.

    So, in that spirit, peace to ALL OF YOU, on whom His favor rests.