What’s in a name?

Around late Advent, just before Christmas, it is common to have this reading from the Gospels:

Matthew 1:18-23

18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. 20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.  21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel which is translated “God is with us.”

Matthew 1:23 refers to Isaiah 7:14.

Isaiah 7:14

14 Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.

(FYI – Immanuel is sometimes spelled “Emmanuel”.)

So is the prophecy fulfilled? A virgin did conceive and give birth to a son – but he was named Jesus, not Immanuel.  Does it matter?

Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which means “The Lord saves” or “Yahweh saves.”

So his name doesn’t even mean the same thing – “God is with us” and “The Lord saves” are not the same.

It reminds me of the discrepancy with the death and resurrection – it wasn’t three days – it wasn’t even 48 hours – that Jesus was entombed.

Does it matter?

Is it a deal breaker?

And how come nobody else has pointed this out?

 

(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Translation)

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Nativity set at Mercy Convent

Mercy nativity 1-9-16

I learned that the Catholic Church observes the season of Christmas until they celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, which this year is 1/10/16. This meant that the really nice Nativity set was still up in the chapel when I went on retreat from 1/8 – 1/9. There are real evergreens behind the creche. They are about 8 feet tall and smell amazing. The creche is on a table that is about three feet off the ground, and it is about five feet wide. The tallest figurine is about a foot high. Everybody is here – it is a packed scene! They have seven pots of poinsettias decorating the front.

I enjoyed sketching it in the chapel and then watercoloring it in my room. Ideally I’d watercolor it on site but the nuns were setting up for Mass so I felt I’d be more comfortable doing the messy bit without an audience.

Plus, I still can’t take Communion because of their (The Church’s) rules.
Again, not that Jesus made those rules…

I’m not sad/angry/upset about it because I feel I’m missing out – it is because they are. To exclude anyone is to be the exact opposite of what Jesus wanted. I pray that the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to the un-welcoming nature of a policy that says only Catholics can take communion.

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Mercy nativity 2

(edit 2-28-16, I decided to add more pictures that I’d taken)
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Thoughts about The Nativity story.

There are a few issues with the story of the Nativity that happens in Matthew and then follows in Luke. Let us look at the original to start off with. This is the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation.

Matthew 1:18-25
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.
20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”
24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

Notice anything that didn’t synch up? The name isn’t the same.

Here’s the footnote to Matthew 1:21 from HCSB – “Jesus is the Gk form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which equals “The LORD saves” or “Yahweh saves.””

This makes the angel’s comment in line 21 “…because He will save His people from their sins” make sense. His name is his job description.

But then the prophecy by Isaiah says that they will name him Immanuel, which is translated as “God is with us.”

Which one is it? Jesus (Joshua, Yeshua), meaning “the Lord saves” (The Lord being Yahweh), or is it Immanuel, meaning “God is with us”?

Maybe it is a little of both. God saves us by being with us. God lets us know that we aren’t alone. God isn’t “up there”. God cares so much about us that God came down here to be among us and save us from our fear and loneliness. Our God is a hands-on kind of God. Our God isn’t like a CEO or upper management. Our God knows what we are being asked to do, because our God has done it with us. Our God knows how hard life is here in these bodies with their faults and limitations. Our God knows because our God has lived it with us.

Now, this is a poetic interpretation. It sounds good, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

Is the prophecy fulfilled or not? He wasn’t named Immanuel, and he wasn’t named with the same meaning.

Then there is another problem. Are they married or not? The story continues in Luke 2:1-7. This too is from the HCSB translation.

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. 2 This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.
4 And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, 5 to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.”

Note line 5. She was engaged to him. Not his wife. In Matthew 1:24, he married her after the angel talked to him. She hadn’t given birth yet. The story of the birth happens only in Luke, and there she is listed as being engaged, not married.

It is important to read carefully and question everything. If things don’t match up, ask why.

The Condensed Gospel, part 1.

Mark 1:1-3 —The story of Jesus is intimately tied up with the story of John, his cousin. John is predicted in the book of Isaiah.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You,
who will prepare Your way.
3 A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make His paths straight!”

John 1:1-18 —In the beginning was the Word.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.
4 Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.
5 That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man named John
who was sent from God.
7 He came as a witness
to testify about the light,
so that all might believe through him.
8 He was not the light,
but he came to testify about the light.
9 The true light, who gives light to everyone,
was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world,
and the world was created through Him,
yet the world did not recognize Him.
11 He came to His own,
and His own people did not receive Him.
12 But to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to be children of God,
to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born,
not of blood,
or of the will of the flesh,
or of the will of man,
but of God.
14 The Word became flesh
and took up residence[l] among us.
We observed His glory,
the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
15 (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed,
“This was the One of whom I said,
‘The One coming after me has surpassed me,
because He existed before me.’”)
16 Indeed, we have all received grace after grace
from His fullness,
17 for the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has ever seen God.
The One and Only Son—
the One who is at the Father’s side—
He has revealed Him.

Luke 1:5-25 — John’s birth is predicted by the angel Gabriel.

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

8 When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. 13 But the angel said to him:

Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you will name him John.
14 There will be joy and delight for you,
and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord
and will never drink wine or beer.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
while still in his mother’s womb.
16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel
to the Lord their God.
17 And he will go before Him
in the spirit and power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of fathers
to their children,
and the disobedient
to the understanding of the righteous,
to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless. 23 When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.


Luke 1:26-38 —-Gabriel tells Mary that she is about to become pregnant with the Messiah.

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her:
Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
31 Now listen:
You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you will call His name Jesus.
32 He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.
34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”
35 The angel replied to her:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore, the holy One to be born
will be called the Son of God.
36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

Matthew 1:18-25 —Joseph is told by an angel to take Mary as his wife.

18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her25 but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

Luke 1:39-45 —Mary visits Elizabeth. John, still in his mother’s womb, leaps for joy being so close to the Messiah.

“39 In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah 40 where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she exclaimed with a loud cry:

“You are the most blessed of women,
and your child will be blessed!

43 How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! 45 She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”

Luke 1:46-56 —Mary praises God

46 And Mary said:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior,
48 because He has looked with favor
on the humble condition of His slave.
Surely, from now on all generations
will call me blessed,
49 because the Mighty One
has done great things for me,
and His name is holy.
50 His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
51 He has done a mighty deed with His arm;
He has scattered the proud
because of the thoughts of their hearts;
52 He has toppled the mighty from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.
53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped His servant Israel,
mindful of His mercy,
55 just as He spoke to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his descendants forever.

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home.

Luke 1:57-66 —John is born.

57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son. 58 Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her.

59 When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But his mother responded, “No! He will be called John.”

61 Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” 62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote:

HIS NAME IS JOHN.

And they were all amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard about him took it to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.

Luke 1:67-80 —Zechariah prophesies about John.

67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because He has visited
and provided redemption for His people.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David,
70 just as He spoke by the mouth
of His holy prophets in ancient times;
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the clutches of those who hate us.
72 He has dealt mercifully with our fathers
and remembered His holy covenant—
73 the oath that He swore to our father Abraham.
He has given us the privilege,
74 since we have been rescued
from our enemies’ clutches,
to serve Him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness
in His presence all our days.
76 And child, you will be called
a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare His ways,
77 to give His people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God’s merciful compassion,
the Dawn from on high will visit us
79 to shine on those who live in darkness
and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

80 The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

(All text from the Bible is copied from Bible Gateway website, using the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation.)

Nativity pictogram

I saw this little image of the Nativity yesterday and it started me thinking. It is kind of like a pictogram, or a Chinese written word. It has all the basics of the scene in a compact version. The idea is transmitted in a sort of shorthand.

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It shows Mary and Joseph with Jesus in the stable. It is a humble place, nothing fancy. It was probably drafty and simply put together. It wasn’t meant to be a holy place, but it became one.

Isn’t this like us?

The stable is our bodies, while our souls are inside. We are lit by the light of God.

God in us is the same as that image – Jesus being born in a stable.

Be that image. Let your body be that stable. Let it be that humble, worn, unexpected place where God gets in and makes everything different.

Nothing was the same after that moment.

God shows up in the most unexpected, unadorned, unusual ways. God shows up in the muck and mess of our daily lives. We don’t have to be special for God to come to us. We already are special. God loves us as we are – God made us this way.

Nativity scene with Magi – I almost missed the best part.

I saw a picture of the nativity that took my breath away recently. Maybe it was the size. The picture is maybe three feet high by four feet across. Maybe it is the colors. Maybe it is the composition. Maybe it is all of it together, and more.

I apologize for the pictures. It is framed behind glass and there are a lot of fluorescent lights at the store. But, something is better than nothing.

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The first thing that got my attention is the tender scene of the Holy Family. It is to the right of the picture, bathed in light. It appears that all the light is coming from Jesus. Then I notice the shepherds kneeling, holding a candle for light, admiring Jesus. They were the first to be told by an angel that the Messiah had been born. They are joyous and overwhelmed. What they have waited for has finally happened.

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A dove looks on. This is the dove of peace, the dove of the Holy Spirit, and the dove of Noah, all at the same time. Doves are powerful symbols.

Then I wondered where the Magi were. There is no logical reason for thinking this. They don’t appear until 12 days later. The shepherds and the Magi aren’t together in the story, so they shouldn’t be together in this image.

Then I pan over, looking to the left. There they are, just getting off their camels. There they are, just about to come in. The artist has shown a moment in time, just for us, the viewer to see.

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The Magi haven’t seen Jesus yet, but they know He is there. He is the reason for their long journey.

Mary and Joseph haven’t seen the Magi yet. They don’t even know they are coming. They are still overwhelmed with the miracle that has just happened to them.

It is just us, the viewers, who are privy to this scene. We see it all.

It nearly made me cry, to see this moment. To think that I am seeing this slice of history. And to think I almost missed it. The Magi were there all along.

We read from left to right in America, and we view pictures the same way. Once you learn a pattern it is hard to break. I almost missed the Magi because I jumped straight ahead to Jesus.

When I saw them it was such a surprise that I gasped a little. There they were, and I almost missed them.

How often do we do this? We jump ahead to the good part, forgetting that it is all the good part. We forget that everything counts, every character, every brush stroke. We only see a piece and we miss out on the big picture.

The Magi are coming. They are on their way. They are in the desert, wandering like the Jews did, but not for forty years. They are following the same God who leads us all to freedom. At the end of the journey lies redemption, and proof that God is here, with us.