“so, what exactly then?”
Jesus of Nazareth – there is hardly any other person under the sun, people have so many questions about. Is he human? Is he God? Is he both? But how?
The gospel of his baptism tries to give an answer. It's not academically abstract, but vividly narrative: Jesus at the Jordan in a queue of penitents – together with every “Tom, Dick and Harry” from his people in Israel. It was given to him with his mother's milk – being a Jew requires a conversion to the righteousness which God means, that is, being “righteously” human before God and before neighbour, according to the Bible.
But it is the Baptist himself, John, who must be converted here. Because he thinks, the baptism of Jesus is scandalous. Does the Son of God need to convert? Just as the whole of later Christianity, John must learn: this baptismal candidate is a law-abiding Jew all along the line. And as such, he is eminently in the favor of God. As His son. bek
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The eighth day
The only historically certain event of everything the gospels contain about Jesus' birth and childhood is his circimcision.
Since Abraham, there is an unbroken chain of fathers, who admitted their sons to the People of God with this ritual. Thus, Christmas Day is just finished on Octave Day.
The church has declared circumcision day to the high festival of God's mother Mary and hence states the same, because a Jew is anyone born by a Jewish mother. This constitutes twofoldly: It was not enough that Jesus was born, he needed to be admitted to the covenant of God and Israel in order to live up to Israel's history. mim
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The form of presence
Logos, on par with God, has two major appearances: in the beginning of the Creation as wisdom – everything grew through him.
The second act is his coming into the world as words. However, he needs several attemps, because darkness does not want to capture light. Those who embraced him however were the Children of God, the people of Israel. Among them, Logos transforms yet with his last step of convergence: the word becomes flesh, a Jew. This is not recognised by everyone. Only the “we”, which is voiced by Johannes, recognises the glory of God in him. This way, Logos is within the world. Through the “we” of the Children of God, he is available to all humans. tac
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.
The risk of trusting
Some media scientists are convinced: In our media-dominated and media-moderated society the risk of failure becomes less and less a factor for actions.
Risk is being blanked out. The result is that nobody wants to take responsibilties anymore. If there is no venture, no courage is required, too. Risk and trust are not contradictory, but the two sides of the same medal. This is personified today through Josef, son of David, as diclosed in his long genealogy. Without words, he takes responsibility through his actions, for the messianic sprout. He takes the risk of trusting the messenger. He is already being called “just”, because he did not aim to embarass his wife. Does he become more so through his trust and risk? hak
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
A friend from Israel taught me a word, which is not written in the bible, but is still always present in there: “Realization”.
It was the topic of his life. To emigrate. Instead of studying in Europe, he wanted to unload ships at the harbour of Haifa in order to create a country for Jews. The dream was dreamt already: a country on its own. What it needed was: realization. Realization runs like a golden threat through the texts of this third Sunday of Advent. That's no surprise, because those are words from Israel. Isaiah describes: blooming steppes; blind men seeing; jumping lames… Similarly, Jesus doesn't answer his disciples with ideas, but with facts: Tell what you hear and see. acb
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
A young shoot, a sprig from a tree stub – a common phenomenon. In this first reading, it has become metaphorical language.
The stub signifies the following: Something has ended, exhausted, fallen, who knows? And the sprig? Something new has emerged; not on its own, but with the stub's remaining power. Religious Israel borrowed this knowledge from nature and changed the way of the world. How so? It adapted this nature metaphor to it's history and claims: An end, a catastrophe, a worst case scenario can contain strength for a new beginning. This is why Israel understands the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by a superior enemy in the 6th Century BC as a consequence of their wrong, misguided and inhuman way of life. The country has even taken appropriate action. What happened? Even in foreign parts, in enforced exile thriving communities emerged without sacrifices or other cults. The synagogue community was born. Without it, Jesus of Nazareth is unthinkable. bek
But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea. On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.
Peace of Mount Everest?
The Temple Mount of 750 meters height never was the highest mountain, not even in its closest environment. However, the prophet Isaiah still “sees” it topping the other mountains.
Not in a geographical way, but in attracting humans from all peoples. They meet there to resolve their disputes and to forge tools for crafting from their weapons and war materials. While the conflict of the Temple Mount is not resolved, the message remains: “For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”. That could be the disruptive part. Jerusalem as the city of peace goes down in history as a challenge of at least 3000 years. mim
This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come, The mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD'S mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!
He can't save himself?
Luke describes how Jesus on the cross is scoffed in concentric circles from the outside to the inside: He can't save himself – in other words, he certainly cannot save others.
The waves of mockery are suddenly broken by the second co-convict. He thinks that Jesus is capable of everything, but he doesn't ask for help, but for the kingdom of God to come. His request and Jesus' reply obviously match: Jesus coming into his kingdom and being with him in Paradise. That way, “when” turns to “this very day”! That way, the domain of the “King of the Jews” grows, unseen by the audience, with the cross in its centre. tac
The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Rejoicing in the law?
It is easy to become patriotic with black-red-golden car flags during the FIFA World Cup.
The Germans have much more difficulty to endorse the idea of a “constitutional patriotism”, a way of being proud of the constitution that was developed in the post-war era. It is not that easy to love paragraphs and terms. The Jewish people serve as a paragon for that, celebrating the Torah each year during Simchat Tora – a feast solely to rejoice in the law. The dramatic story of the seven brothers and their mother tells of law-abidance and confidence in having a undetachable life with God. What allays the mortal fears, is the certainty of having found the best thing on earth, a life with Him. A life according to the social order of God for his people. acb
It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God's law. One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said: “What do you expect to achieve by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” When the first brother had died in this manner, they brought the second to be made sport of. At the point of death he said: “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying.” After him the third suffered their cruel sport. He put out his tongue at once when told to do so, and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words: “It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.” Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man's courage, because he regarded his sufferings as nothing. After he had died, they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way. When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”
During the years before the birth of Jesus, space shuttles, the mere infinite space and the galaxies were completely unknown. Or were they?
How is it then that a smart writer in Israel had the idea to compare “the whole world” with “dust on a scale”, a “dew drop ... in the morning” decades before Jesus? The ancestors of our faith have not been naive, indeed. They were global players without airports, more sophisticated than a lot of today's jetsetters are. Why? Because they did know more than just midget earth being lost in space: that tiny star is involved in a love story. “You love everything that is”, says the book of wisdom. The believer knows the “friend of life”. Pure optimism. bek
Indeed, before you the whole universe is as a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth. But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook the sins of men that they may repent. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them, and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!