It’s hard to believe but my time as your “fill-in pastor” is rapidly drawing to a close. My last service as preacher and presider will be on Christmas Day. I want to thank you for your patience and encouragement over these two months–I’ve enjoyed working with the texts and preparing sermons.
This week we get an opportunity to look at the birth story of Jesus through the eyes of both Matthew and Luke. As you know, they have two very different accounts. Matthew, whose story we hear this Sunday, tells the story from the perspective of Joseph and says nothing about angels, shepherds, or a manger. He emphasizes Joseph’s faithfulness and mentions Mary only in passing.
The other story of Jesus’ birth, the one found in Luke, is the one we’ll hear on Christmas Eve. It’s undoubtedly one of the most familiar and beautiful bible stories and has been carefully crafted to capture our attention and imagination. Many of us could probably recite portions of it from memory, especially if we’ve ever participated in Sunday School Christmas programs. Luke makes Mary the central figure and Joseph is the one who gets the non-speaking role.
Both writers speak of Mary’s virginity in order to hammer home the point that Jesus is the messiah and that the fullness of divinity rests in him. Jesus is different–he has no earthly father. For some that notion of a virgin birth has been distracting and troublesome, almost a stumbling block to faith. It’s even caused some to reject the entirety of the gospel narratives. Others, including myself, try to understand the reason for telling the stories in this fashion, and reject a wooden literal interpretation.
These really are beautiful stories and each of them contain powerful truths behind the images. To get at those truths will be the aim of my sermons this last week of my time with you.
Thanks again for the chance to serve. You will be in my prayers as the interim pastor begins her work and you begin the exciting process of finding a new pastor. I can’t wait to see who it will be.