New Testament Lesson
The reading for this week is Luke 2 and Matthew 2. The suggested study focuses on the nativity narrative, on how many people came to him as they were led by angels and stars, and on the witnesses of Christ’s divine mission.
“The Chronicles of Mary and Joseph: Part 3 of 4, Joseph and Mary,” by S. Kent Brown, excerpted from The Testimony of Luke
This short piece discusses what Luke says about Joseph and Mary’s travel to Bethlehem, where they stayed, and the arrival of the shepherds, which reinforces to the new parents that God is truly watching over them and their son. Forty days later, Joseph and Mary go to the temple to make two offerings and are met by Simeon and Anna.
“The Chronicles of Mary and Joseph: part 4 of 4, Bethlehem and Beyond,” by S. Kent Brown, excerpted from The Testimony of Luke
It appears that Jesus is at least a year old when Herod receives the “wise men from the east.” The visit of these men causes panic in the royal house, he issues his infamous order to slay the children in Bethlehem. Joseph has been warned to flee to Egypt, and he obeys. Tradition holds that they remained in Egypt for three and a half years. Another dream warns Joseph to take his family to Galilee, where eventually Jesus would work alongside him.
“Why Did the Wise Men Give Gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh?” by John W. Welch, from BYU New Testament Commentary
Little is known about the Wise Men. The Gospel of Matthew says they came from somewhere east of Jerusalem. The early Christian writer Justin Martyr said that they were Jewish men who came from Arabia, southeast of Judea. They may have been among the many Jewish people who were looking for the fulfillment of Israelite prophecies about the coming of the Messiah, such as Daniel’s 490 year prophecy.,
“Are the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke reconcilable?” By John W. Welch, from BYU New Testament Commentary
The Christmas stories of Matthew and Luke are very different. They tell us different things. Each has a different perspective, approach, and audience. But underlying their differences is essential agreement on ten most important points. Read more for a discussion of the differences and the ten essential aspects of the narrative.
“How the Wise Men Became Kings,” by Eric D. Huntsman, from Good Tidings of Great Joy, 104
Matthew uses the term magoi for the special visitors who come to the child Jesus bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The possibility of their royalty might have been suggested by their wealth, since the gifts they presented Jesus were worthy of a king. But early Christians seem to have made the connection with royalty as they reflected upon certain Old Testament passages, such as Psalm 69:29 and 72:10, that suggested that kings from among the nations would come to Israel bearing gifts. Particularly significant, however, were passages from the prophet Isaiah. Connecting the coming of kings with the light of a rising star, Isaiah 60:3 prophesies “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” A few verses later some of their gifts, and even the camels that were later assumed to be their conveyance, are mentioned: “The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6).
“Two or Three Witnesses,” a poem by Michael Hicks, BYU Studies 37, no. 4
This poem looks at three witnesses of Christ’s life and sacrifice: Mary, John, and a donkey. They speak from their own viewpoint. Mary remembers Christ’s life as “one long labor” from “the day your name spilled from the angel’s tongue like wine” until the moment discussed in the poem, the crucifixion. John remembers Christ’s words, “parables and proverbs loaded against the nets of language.” Read for yourself to learn what the donkey says, and consider how we at times act in a similar way.