Lesson 3: The Christmas Story

The Nativity of JesusLet’s examine how the question about the future is handled in the Christmas story. Matthew and Luke ask how there can be a child in the future if there is no sexual relationship. How can there be a future if the imperial empire forces a woman to travel in the final stages of pregnancy? How can there be a future if there is no room in the inn where she can give birth safely? How can there be a future if the powerful king uses genocide to make sure God’s messiah is killed?

The story offers hope because God is involved in providing what seems impossible, such as a virgin birth, safety in a dirty cow stall, good news for poor shepherds, and refuge in immigration.

John asks the question in a philosophical context. God has always been present because his Word and Spirit pervade his creation. However, how can there be a future if humans do not perceive his presence or elect to ignore it? John answers that God takes human form so he can be easily discerned and his will readily apparent.

Beyond this, the Christmas story emphasizes that hope is based on a remarkable transformation. Mary illustrates this when she sings of the lowly being lifted up and the mighty brought down. The whole story proclaims this is good news for the poor, not the powerful. Hope demands repentance or rethinking because all will be turned upside down.

From this perspective it is possible that the hopelessness we are experiencing stems from our being part of the establishment that is being torn down. What seems troubling might actually be a sign of a positive transformation.

When Jesus begins his ministry he says God has appointed him to bring good news to the poor, release to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, The successful have to be careful evaluating what is happening for Jesus speaks of a reversal of privilege.

I find this far from a completely satisfactory answer to our question, but it is not a bad place to start.

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