In this blog we will discuss what it means to live by the Spirit and how it relates to renewing the mind. How do we uproot the instinctive performances of destructive habits? Are we hopeless in the arena of practical righteousness? If not, then how do we find our way forward?
If you could change, would you? Deep lasting change, change programmed into our bodies (the biblical term is members) is pictured in the way we have been conditioned/ trained/ programmed to know how to drive to our houses from familiar places in the city. This conditioning/ practice/ training happens through consistent following of particular instructions or directions.
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The story of Herod and the infants of Bethlehem is a horrific episode of the birth narrative that is almost universally absent from Sunday school accounts of the story. Yet it is fundamental to understanding the hope that is present in Jesus’ birth. Here is one who will finally lead his people from slavery and persecution to the Promised Land. God wants to show that this infant born in a manger is uniting himself to the history of God’s struggling people.
Even in the midst of these tremendous stories of God’s miraculous power in the birth
of Jesus, we find that the humanity of the other characters remains transparent. Both Matthew and Luke want us to know that from the very beginning Jesus’ story is fraught
with trials and sufferings. Even in the midst of Mary finding out she is pregnant with
a child from the Holy Spirit, Matthew tells us that Joseph considered divorcing her silently, assuming that she has committed adultery, a sin punishable by death. Committed adultery—in the midst of their betrothal to be married! This is pretty scandalous stuff to be published in what we often see portrayed as the pristine birth of shiny baby Jesus.
Men have never had much success winning a quarrel with the angels. It got Jacob a dislocated hip and Zechariah struck dumb. In response to Gabriel’s incredible speech about a son that will be born to him, a son who will be great before the Lord, and will bring joy and gladness to many souls, Zechariah, a man that served God with his whole life, finds a quick word of disbelief falling easily from his lips.
If you actually take the time to read through the list of names in Jesus genealogy you find four very unusual names present for a typical genealogy. Matthew lists four women whose own background was either Gentile (non-Jewish), scandalous, or both! You can read the texts yourself to get the full picture: Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab (Joshua 6), Ruth (Ruth 4), and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), who isn’t even listed by name.
This song captures Simeon’s gratitude to God. It also captures Simeon’s readiness to die. Yet, it is sung in joy because Simeon has seen the promise fulfilled. It is a wonderful song that captures both God’s desire to extend redemption to the whole world, as well as a blessing with a caveat: this child will cause both the rise and fall of many in Israel.
In pictures and descriptions of Jesus’ birth, the angels attending are often portrayed as chubby cherubim, lightly plucking at harp and lyre. They hardly seem scary, or the type of characters that would frighten hardened shepherds. Yet this multitude broke through the heavenly curtain and with regal precision proclaimed in swift accord the present situation.