A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Advent Meditation 2006.1

Luke 3:1-6: Not a "Once Upon a Time" Kind of God

Luke does not begin the story of Jesus in "once upon a time" fashion. He locates it within the concrete events and real persons of history. "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar--when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanius tetrarch of Abilene-- during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert."

This is not a story from a distant time far away, perhaps historical in some respect, but more mythical in character. John the Baptist comes within history because the one for whom he prepares the way will teach, preach, heal, die, and yes, rise from the dead, within history. God created the physical world, with physical people who had stories, who had histories. That physical, real world and its inhabitants needed salvation. A mythical figure conjured up in the minds of the first followers of some teacher in Jesus Seminar fashion, would be incapable of offering such deliverance. A messianic figure whose fate upon a cross ended there with his body thrown to the dogs or resting for all time in a tomb, would be a Savior quite ineffective. A dead Messiah can hardly offer life.

The this-worldly nature of God's work in Jesus' earthly ministry begins some four decades earlier during the reign of Ceasar Augustus. It is found in the announcement of an unexpected birth to a young peasant girl who is willing only to be used of God, despite what others will think and no doubt gossip about when drawing water from the village well. It is seen in the faithfulness of a young man, a husband to his pregnant wife and a father to a son, who is not connected to him biologically. It is revealed in the joy of the shepherds, those who exist on the margins of society, who do not "hobnob" with the culturally acceptable, but who now know in the singing of the angels, that this Savior has come in such humble circumstances specifically for them. It is known in the journey of the magi who travel far from home only with their faith in a star and ancient words from long-dead prophets to guide them.

The God of Israel who journeyed with his people in history, delivering them from slavery in Egypt, who saw them safely into the Promised Land and surrounded them with his presence in exile, bringing them back once again to the land of their ancestors, would save them in like historical fashion. Our God is not a "once upon a time" kind of God. His deliverance is not either.

1 comment:

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, Allan for your good meditation and emphasis on the historicity of our our faith.