Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Advent shocks 2)

 The first shock I noted was: 1. God chooses Nazareth.  My guidebook says: Nazareth 30 km from Tiberias, 35 km. from Haifa. It lies in a lovely position, nestling as in a cocoon scooped out of the hillside. Closer contact tends to disappoint the visitor...noisy and dusty with traffic, it wears a shabby and neglected air, in spite of the ostentation of some of its religious monuments.  And it is disappointing! You wonder why on earth God chooses this place.  Bethlehem is foretold by the prophet Micah and has a rich place in history as traced through the Old Testament. Nazareth, on the other hand, is never mentioned anywhere in Scripture until now.  How come this nondescript place becomes the home of Jesus for 30 years?

When I visited Nazareth with a group we saw the traditional sites but overall the guidebook summed it up  accurately.  Then, as were were about to leave, something happened that I shall never forget. I looked out of my coach window onto the busy, noisy dusty street straight into an open coffin carrying the body of a young woman.  Her family and others were following in procession.  Suddenly Nazareth was a place of real people going through life and death. In this place we were were passing through ordinary people lived a lifetime. 'God became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood' (John 1:14 The Message).  This neighbourhood.  He will be known as Jesus of Nazareth and cynics will say: 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'  

Why did God choose Nazareth.?  Is it possible because Mary lived in Nazareth?  That, because 2. God chooses Mary - the place of Nazareth becomes inevitably vital in God's story?  The choice of Mary has become so familiar in its telling yet it should still startle.  This teenager, probably mid-teens is engaged to be married (which in Jewish law was binding and should the fiancé die she would be a widow).  All her future is settled, planned out in trusting faith.  Until Gabriel interrupts with what seems to be impossible news that she will give birth to the one who will be called the Son of God.  But as Gabriel says: 'nothing is impossible with God,' (Luke 1: 37).   What turmoil this stirs up for both Mary and Joseph, yet this birth will change the world.   Onto choice 3.......

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