Tag Archives: Herod

24 December – Who do you ask?

Answers are easier to find than ever – for some questions, at least. With internet access we can search for any question and find answers. Of course, one problem is that we have to work out which answers are right, or at least best. More complicated, though, is that we have to work out who’s giving the answers – and what their agenda might be.

The Wise Men went to the obvious place to look for a King of Israel – the palace in Jerusalem. When they realised they were in the wrong place and asked for directions, the answer they got was correct – they needed to go to Bethlehem. But they had asked the wrong person, and Herod had his own agenda. His agenda was to make sure that he stayed in power, whatever he had to do to make it happen. And he didn’t have space in his plans for another king. What he did next is in Matthew 2:13-18.

In the last couple of years we’ve become aware of the dangers of our choosing where we get our information about the world, because we tend to go to people, websites and broadcasters who seem to agree with us. Then we forget that just because someone shares our bias, that doesn’t make them unbiased. We need to be careful who we go to for answers – they may be asking different questions from us, and the ‘right’ answer can lead to the wrong consequences.


The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

Blogging the Bible 243 – Matthew 1-2 – Ancient hope, new beginning

Today, with anticipation I open the New Testament after 242 readings from the Old, and – it’s a page of genealogy. Thanks.

Then I read it, and it makes a lot more sense than it has before that this comes as the first, off-putting page of the greatest book in history, the one I give to people when they’re ready to find out about God – the New Testament. Because now the names all ring loud and recent bells in my mind, as part of the story that I’ve just read. They make it clear that this book is not a new story, but follows on from what’s already been written; and that the key thing about that ancient story is that it has been worked out in human lives. God has not usually worked by heavenly decree, but through the ordinary and extraordinary people of the Old Testament. Their story has brought the world to this moment, where God enters the human story in person.

What’s particularly fascinating about Matthew’s genealogy is the inclusion of a few key women alongside the fathers and greatgrandfathers of Joseph. Rahab and Ruth, two Gentile women whose faith shines from the Old Testament, are mentioned by name. Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, isn’t given a name, but is ‘the wife of Uriah’ – for all of David’s greatness, his greatest sin is not hidden. Perhaps, too, we need to be reminded that the Messiah’s family tree doesn’t just include foreigners but also the legacy of lust, adultery and betrayal. After all, there’s some of that in most people’s ancestry, and this is part of the humanity he comes to share.

Overall, though, this whole introduction serves to link Old and New in Jesus. And something new is indeed happening – after the birth of Jesus, genealogies seem to lose their religious significance.

Once the story really gets going, with the conception and birth of Jesus – told mainly, here, from Joseph’s point of view. The meaning of the birth is spelled out in the two names given to the child – ‘Jesus’, meaning ‘God saves’ and ‘Emmanuel’, meaning ‘God with us’.

The visit of the Wise Men, with its tragic consequences for the families of Bethlehem, fulfils in symbol the prophecies of the nations coming to worship, but shows how even the greatest of worldly wisdom and the best of intentions need God’s guidance as well – and how acting on what seems logical and right can lead to disaster.

At the same time, their actions link again the two testaments, but with an ironic twist. In the book of Exodus, Moses was saved in Egypt from the infanticide of a tyrant, Pharoah. Now, a tyrant is in charge in Jerusalem, and Jesus has to flee to Egypt to escape with his life.

This whole story, with its glory and wonder and with its horror, is the more powerful now that I read it with the whole Old Testament story fresh in my mind. There’s a sense of fulfilment that comes across in a new way.

The genealogy helps. Honest.