Luke is Christianity’s first historian. Scholars note his use of Greco-Roman history’s literary models. We too use cultural forms to convey Christian content. It’s good evangelism: Something new in something familiar. Luke opens many stories by situating them in historical times and places. “Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth.”
Galilee first appears in Joshua (20:7; 21:32) and First Chronicles (6:76). Isaiah 9:1 describes it as a place of foreigners, “the nations.” Galilee is conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 bce, captured by the Romans in 63 bce, and thereafter subject to occupying forces. (See Luke 3:1.) How does the angelic promise of a new house and reign sound to this daughter of a subjugated people? Nazareth is a village, perhaps an outpost of Sepphoris, the expanding Roman administrative center three miles northwest where a tekton (carpenter, craftsman) might find work. Hearing Jesus is from there, Nathanael asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (See John 1:46.) Well, yes, something can.
Luke emphasizes that Jesus comes from real places. Their history culminates when God’s promises are fulfilled in them. “Throne of . . . David,” and “reign over the house of Jacob” introduce Mary’s yet-to-be son as fulfillment of God’s dynastic promise to David. (See 2 Samuel 7:11-16.) The “house” Jesus establishes fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isa. 56:7; Mark 11:17). Like David’s, Jesus’ “house” isn’t a place. It is a person. Mary’s “yes” facilitates prophecies of salvation history. As Paul later explains, “In [Jesus] every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes’ ” (2 Cor. 1:20).
Lord, as Mary did, we accept your goodness and mercy and ask to dwell in your house forever. Amen.
In the fourth week of Advent, we focus on prophecies of the arrival of the Messiah. When David commits to build a temple for God, God promises to build a house for David as well. This is the line of David that will rule forever, and Jesus comes from this line. In the first reading from Luke, Mary rejoices after her visit to Elizabeth, for she understands that her child will play a key role in God’s redemption. Paul reminds the Romans that his message about Christ did not begin with him. Instead, it is the fulfillment of promises made through the prophets. The second reading from Luke might more logically have come first this week, for it describes how Mary reveals the importance of this child in her song of rejoicing.
Read 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16. When have you thought you were participating in God’s plans and later realized you had misunderstood God’s desire or instruction?
Read Luke 1:47-55. Consider how you magnify the Lord. How do you pass on your faith to future generations?
Read Romans 16:25-27. Remember the carols you have been singing this Advent and have sung throughout your life. How do they help you proclaim the mystery of the Incarnation?
Read Luke 1:26-38. In this season of giving and receiving, how do you remember that God is the giver of all good gifts? How do you return your God-given gifts to God?
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