I’d like to start
with the Gospel reading for the fourth
Sunday in Advent, December 18th.
Below is the text, in the New Revised
Standard Version (NRSV) which is the
translation used in the Canadian
Now the birth of Jesus
the Messiah took place in this way.
When his mother Mary had been engaged to
Joseph, but before they lived together,
she was found to be with child from the
Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a
righteous man and unwilling to expose
her to public disgrace, planned to
dismiss her quietly. But just when he
had resolved to do this, an angel of the
Lord appeared to him in a dream and
said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be
afraid to take Mary as your wife, for
the child conceived in her is from the
Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and
you are to name him Jesus, for he will
save his people from their sins."
All this took place to
fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord
through the prophet: “Look, the
virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,"
which means, "God is with us." When
Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the
angel of the Lord commanded him; he took
her as his wife.
1 of the Gospel according to Matthew
has 25 verses and I wondered why verse
25 was missing from the lectionary. It
reads as follows:
had no marital relations with her until
she had borne a son; and he named
whether there was something mistaken
with the NRSV translation, I checked
out six other English translations and
they all said essentially the same
For example, two of them used
the following words:
…and knew her not till
she had brought forth a son: and he
called his name Jesus.
know” in the Hebrew bible means the
same as “to have sex with”.
example, a part of the NRSV
translation in the Sodom story is:
..and they [all the men
in Sodom, (presumably 90% heterosexual)]
called to Lot, “Where are the men who
came with you tonight?
Bring them out to us, so that
we may know them… Look, I [Lot] have two
daughters who have not known a man, let
me bring them out to you, and do to them
as you please; only do nothing to these
men, for they have come under the
shelter of my roof”
19: 5, 8, NRSV)
leave it to you to decide whether
verse 25 affects in any way your view
of Mary, the mother of Jesus. A couple
of years ago, I had a conversation
with a scripture scholar about verse
25. He suggested that the early Church
fathers simply could not imagine Mary
having sex and other children after
giving birth to what they considered
to be literally the only Son of God. I
know that some Catholics have a
special devotion to Mary, and it
appears that the majority of clergy
do. I see the Divine dwelling in Mary
and her consciousness of that
is also a great opportunity for each
of us to be aware of the Divine
indwelling in each of us (our true
selves) and in all of Creation. We
are all members of a single Oneness of
Only through the lens of our
egoic (false) self do we see each
other as separate and unrelated.
in bullet form below are my notes on
the key aspects of the birth story as
related by the authors of the Gospel
according to Matthew and the Gospel
according to Luke (based mainly on the
was born in the town of Bethlehem,
when Herod was king.
time afterwards, wise men (or, men who
studied the stars) came from the East
to Jerusalem and asked “Where is the
baby born the king of the Jews? We’ve
seen his star and we’ve come to
Herod and everyone else in Jerusalem
were very upset.
He consulted with the chief
priests and teachers and asked where
the Messiah was to be born.
In Bethlehem of Judea.
Herod met secretly with the
travellers, learned when the star had
appeared, and asked them to report
back where the child is so that he too
could worship him.
they left Jerusalem, they picked up
the guiding star again and it brought
them to the place where the child was.
went into the house where they saw
Mary and Jesus, worshipped him and
presented gifts of gold, frankincense
visitors returned to their country by
another route after God told them in a
dream not to go back to Herod.
angel then appeared to Joseph in a
dream and directed him to take Mary
and Jesus to Egypt to escape from King
Herod who wanted to kill Jesus.
Mary and Jesus left during the night
for Egypt where they stayed until King
Herod found out that the travellers
had tricked him, he was furious and
ordered the slaying of all boys
(children?) two years’ old and younger
in Bethlehem and the neighbouring
King Herod died, an angel appeared in
a dream to Joseph in Egypt and
instructed him to take the child and
his mother back to Israel because the
child would no longer be in danger.
Joseph heard that Archelaus had
succeeded his father as king of Judea,
he was afraid. In a dream, he was
instructed to go to Galilee and he
made his new home in Nazareth.
Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be
taken throughout the Roman Empire.
This was the first census when
Quirinius was the governor of Syria.
Everyone was ordered to register
themselves in their own hometown.
went from Nazareth in Galilee to
Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of
King David, as Joseph was a descendent
went to register with Mary, who was
promised in marriage to him. She was
pregnant and, when in Bethlehem,
started to go into labour.
There was no room for them to
stay in the inn.
gave birth to her firstborn son,
wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in
were some shepherds who were spending
the night in the fields, taking care
of their flocks. A dazzling angel
appeared to them, frightening them,
announcing the birth of the saviour
and then was joined by other angels
singing praises to God.
the angels returned to heaven, the
shepherds decided to search for the
infant in Bethlehem.
shepherds found Jesus, Mary and
Joseph, and told them about the
angelic announcement and choir. They
spread the word about the child and
all were amazed.
remembered all of this and thought
deeply about them.
shepherds went back (to their
fields?), singing praises to God.
week later the child was circumcised
and named Jesus.
it came time to perform the ceremony
of purification, required for the
firstborn male, they took the child to
the Temple in Jerusalem.
They offered as sacrifices a
pair of doves or two young pigeons, as
required by Jewish Law.
of Simeon and Anna in the Temple
acknowledging the baby.}
the ritual in the Temple was finished,
Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to
their hometown of Nazareth in Galilee.
of Scriptural Texts
of Jesus of Nazareth ca. 4 BCE-30 CE
of Paul ca. 50-65 CE (pseudo-Pauline
epistles continued for some time)
of the Temple 70 CE
of Mark ca. 70 CE
of Matthew ca. 80 CE
Jews banned from the synagogue 88 CE
of Luke ca. 90+ CE
of John ca. 100 CE
Christmas Message from Frank Testin, President of
Dignity Canada Dignité