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As Christmas moves into the rearview, there is one more look we should give the birth narratives to see what they may have for us herenow. It’s always the tiny details of a story that give it its authenticity, show that the storyteller was fully present to the moments described. And in Jesus’ birth narratives we have some details that shouldn’t be missed: wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger, no room at the inn. These details have graced millions of nativity scenes for two millennia, but do we have them right?
In the run up to Christmas, one of the more striking elements of the Nativity narrative in the Gospel of Matthew is the story of the Magi and the Star. What was this star and who were these Magi? Was this a miraculous event or the good timing of a supernova, comet, conjunction, or some other celestial event? But if it were there in the sky for all to see, why were the Magi the only ones to see it? Why did Herod and his court have to be informed? And as we examine the possible true nature of the star, what is its significance for us today? Is it just a miracle story foreshadowing the miraculous ministry of Jesus, or is there more?
James Series 2: James tells us in the opening verses of his book that we should count it all joy when we encounter various difficulties because the testing of our faith produces endurance and the endurance produces a perfect result in which we lack for nothing. James then moves on to talk about asking for wisdom, asking without doubt, persevering to reward, the nature of temptation and presence. If we look at these verses from a Western point of view, we will have a complete misunderstanding of what James is saying in his Eastern way to an Eastern audience.
James Series 1: James, the brother of Jesus, the man who led the early Jerusalem church for the first thirty years after the crucifixion was the pillar of the Eastern Church and yet is relatively unknown in the West. Western tradition portrays Peter as the head of the early Jewish followers of Jesus, but the East has always maintained James in that position. The book that bears his name was quite possibly a catechism for early Jewish followers and converts and is beautiful in its clarity and brevity and focus on the big questions as well as the essential details of life. Moving nearly verse by verse, we’ll take a look at how James led his brother’s followers through those first difficult years, trying to follow Jesus’ Way through persecution from both Jewish and Roman authorities.