Advent Day 5: Mary And Elizabeth (Luke 1v39-45)

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39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[a] a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Luke doesn’t tell us why pregnant Mary goes with haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. It’s likely that her recent miraculous conception hadn’t been met with universal celebration in her community. Getting away from Nazareth by visiting her relative could have been for Mary’s own protection. In any case, Mary visits Elizabeth, who has herself miraculously conceived. Mary finds only encouragement from her cousin. Elizabeth’s baby leaps in the womb (which can’t have been comfortable!). Elizabeth herself is filled with God’s spirit and exclaims with a loud cry “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!…And blessed is she who believed that there would be[a] a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

This short episode highlights once again that the central characters in the Christmas story are not the rich and powerful, but ordinary people who believe in God. 

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Advent Day 4: More Than A List (Matt 1v1-17)

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1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

It’s easy for modern Western readers to skip over Matthew’s introduction. “Isn’t it just a long list of unpronounceable names?” But for 1st Century Middle “Easterners”, genealogies like this were a big deal. They told a story. Family history was and is a big deal. 

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is remarkable in that, among the list of notable men from Israel’s history, it also includes the names of 5 women. Why was this remarkable? Because Jewish genealogies were not meant to include women. Family history was traced through male descendants. So what’s Matthew doing? Let’s look at the women he includes.

Tamar (v3) pretended to be a prostitute in order to sleep with the father of her dead husband and gain the justice denied her as a widow (Genesis 38). 

Rahab (v5) was a non-Jewish prostitute who protected Jewish spies in order to save her family (Joshua 2)

Ruth (v5) was a Gentile (non-Jewish) widow who chose to worship the God of Israel (see the book of Ruth). 

“The wife of Uriah” (v6) was Bathsheba, who committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11)

Mary (v16) was the mother of Jesus, who was married to Joseph.

Matthew chooses to include these 5 women because they reveal what type of people Jesus came to save. God chose the Savior of the world to be born into a family line which included Jews and Gentiles, “saints” and “sinners”, rich and poor. Matthew includes women in his list to make it clear that Jesus would call both men and women to follow Him. 

Jesus’ family tree was messy. Jesus came into a messy world. Christmas is good news because God sent His Son into a messy world to rescue messy people. 

 

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Advent Day 1: A People Prepared

By Liam Bunce

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when the Christian church celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ. We remember the birth of Jesus 2000+ years ago. We celebrate Jesus’ presence with the church now by His Spirit. We look forward to Jesus’ promised return as King. Many find it refreshing and faith-building to look again at the events around the birth of Jesus.

Christmas can be such a busy time of the year. Celebrating Advent can help us to focus on the One at the centre of the story, God’s gift to the world. Every day we’ll be posting bible verses related to Christmas, along with some thoughts to consider. Have a great Advent and Christmas!

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[a] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children 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 the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Despite walking blamelessly before God, Zecariah and Elizabeth haven’t been able to have children. Barrenness is hard for any couple to live with; for those in the Middle East in the 1st Century (and today) it was a cause for grief and shame. Zecariah would have no heir to continue the family name. Elizabeth would have no son or daughter to care for her in old age. The community would assume that God was displeased with Zecariah and Elizabeth.

But God has a history of blessing barren couples and giving them central roles in His story. The father of the Jewish people was Abraham, whose wife Sarah was barren. God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son. God gave Hannah a son after years of barrenness. The child was Samuel, Israel’s great prophet and priest. 

Luke’s account of the Christmas story starts with good news about the birth of a baby boy. That boy would prepare God’s people for the arrival of the promised Saviour, Jesus. The birth of John the baptist shows that God loves to use the most unlikely characters in His story. Zecariah and Elizabeth thought their time was past. Against hope God chose to bless them with a son. 

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North 2013

ImageWe’re excited to once again be going the North Event as a church. North is the annual weekend away for our family of churches, Christ Central (part of Newfrontiers). This year is the 10th anniversary of North, in which time it’s grown from 400 people from just a few churches, to what it is today – over 2000 people from churches in the UK as well as friends from Canada, Africa and Scandinavia!

With well-know guest speakers like Adrian Holloway as well as Jeremy Simkins (Christ Central Team Leader and North 2013 host), the weekend promises to be a great opportunity to encounter God, grow in friendship together and be sent out on mission in Huddersfield and beyond. But don’t take my word for it, visit www.northevent.org or speak to somebody who’s been to North before for more details.

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