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Pulpit Fiction Podcast

Dec 15, 2013

For Sunday, December 22

Episode 42

Welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, where two local pastors discuss the lectionary reading for the week.  We are well aware that “What” is not a country, and we’ll try not to say it again. This is episode 42 for Sunday December 22, Advent 4A. We will be discussing: 


Primary Scripture - Matthew 1:18-25- An Angel visits Joseph

  • Birth narrative in Matthew is barely a narrative.  It never really happens. There’s no manger or shepherds or angels or trip to Bethlehem. 
    • 1:1-17 is genealogy
    • 18-24 is about Joseph
  • Jesus is born in a period in the middle of verse 25
    • “But he didn't have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son.  Joseph called him Jesus.”
  • Traditional “Nativity Scenes” or the “Creche” do not really depict a Biblical scene if they include the Magi.  
    • Magi don’t come until “After he was born.” 
  • Joseph disregards the Deuteronomic Law, and yet he is considered a “Righteous man” because of this kindness.
    • He is stuck between following the Law, and following his heart. His choice is to follow his heart.
    • Standing in tension that Jesus grows up to teach about time and again: “You have heard it said..., but I say to you…”
    • Joseph does not investigate whether Mary conceived in a field or not.  And he chooses not to search for the man either.
    • Deuteronomy 22:22-27:

“If a man is found having sex with a woman who is married to someone else, both of them must die—the man who was having sex with the woman and the woman herself.  Remove such evil from Israel!  If a young woman who is a virgin is engaged to one man and another man meets up with her in a town and has sex with her, you must bring both of them to the city gates there and stone them until they die—the young woman because she didn’t call for help in the city, and the man because of the fact that he humiliated his neighbor’s wife. Remove such evil from your community!

But if the man met up with the engaged woman in a field, grabbing her and having sex with her there, only the man will die. Don’t do anything whatsoever to the young woman. She hasn’t committed any capital crime—rather, this situation is exactly like the one where someone attacks his neighbor and kills him. Since the man met up with her in a field, the engaged woman may well have called out for help, but there was no one to rescue her.

If a man meets up with a young woman who is a virgin and not engaged, grabs her and has sex with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who had sex with her must give fifty silver shekels to the young woman’s father.  She will also become his wife because he has humiliated her.  He is never allowed to divorce her.”

  • Also note that the adultery law only applies if the woman is married.  It says nothing about a married man having sex with a woman that is unmarried.  
    • Marriage was a property exchange, and a way to determine the handing down of goods from Father to Son.  
    • Sex with a married woman throws into question the validity of the husband’s property line.
    • Also, marriage is required if a man rapes an unengaged woman, and the reparations are paid to the father.
  • Ultimately, this is about God’s action in the child that is coming.  
    • This birth is “of God.”  
    • The child will fall into the line of David.  
    • Neither Mary nor Joseph have any words in this narrative.  The only words are from the angel.  The only “action” is obedience.
  • Two names of the child tells us about the nature of God:
    • Jesus, meaning “God saves”
      • Matthew makes it clear that Joseph named Jesus.  This is the ultimate act of him claiming the boy as his own, thus adopting him into the line of David. (Eugene Boring, The New Interpreters Bible v. viii Matthew, p. 136)
      • “Many Christians are uncomfortable with the expression ‘Jesus son of Joseph,’ because it sounds to them like a denial of the virgin birth.  For Matthew, it was essential that Jesus be recognized as truly the son of Joseph, because only so was he an authentic descendant of David” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew p. 11)
      • “God saves” through the birth of a child.
    • Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us”
      • The meaning of the “virgin birth” is not to make great theological interpretations about things like original sin, or biological theories about DNA.  It is about simply “God is with us.”
      • The great mystery of Immanuel is that God is with us, and that is enough.

Secondary scripture - Isaiah 7:10-16 - Immanuel

  • Virgin vs. young woman- does it matter?
    • most likely the young woman was already pregnant
    • Is this miracle more important than bringing peace to the earth, sight to the blind, good news to the poor, letting the oppressed go free, etc.?
    • Matthew, Luke and other early Christians ascribe the name “Immanuel” to Jesus, this does not mean Isaiah was thinking of Jesus what he says this. Early Christians gave Jesus this name because he was a symbol of the hope embodied in this prophecy, just as “Son of Man” was a symbol of the faithfulness seen in King David (also known as the “Son of Man”)
  • In opposition to the Greek and Roman Gods coming down to rape or have sex with women and cause general pain, brokenness and discord the divine coming to Earth is for healing, hope, and peace - not lust, oppression, coercion and war. For more on this see Born Divine
  • Message of reassurance at the brink of doom
    • Assyrians and Ephraimites are coming in to make Judah a puppet state or destroy them
    • All is hopeless
    • Or is it?
  • Ahaz must ask for a sign - but won’t
    • afraid he won’t receive an answer
    • unwilling to trust in God
    • Ahaz was unfaithful - worshiped pagan God, set up a pagan altar in the temple
      • YET- God still will give anything to make the King trust in him
  • Parallel images of a growing child and a growing world- the Eschatological growth of the world= the biological and psychological growth of a child
  • Questions that Preach:
    • What is the true miracle of Christmas? That a virgin conceived and bore a son OR that a child was born and showed us the saving WAY of non-violence, love and grace? 
    • Are we willing to ask God for a sign in the midst of despair? Are we still willing to turn to God over economic, political, or militaristic solutions?
    • What are the signs God is giving us today at this moments that “God is with us”?

Closing - 
TY: listeners
Opening Music: O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Bad Religion
Transition Music: “Purple Rain”  covered by Dred Scott
read more about Dred Scott and his music here!
Theme Music: Dick Dale and the Deltones “Misirlou”
TY: Closing music, Paul and Storm, “Oh No”

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