THE CHRISTMAS/EASTER STORY
From the Gospel of Luke
Rearranged for two speakers by Dennis Dewey
I am re-posting the text for the Christmas Day entry, because this surely is the heart of the Good News: Christ came to save sinners! I invite you to re-read the Christmas and Easter stories during these three days, and let the glory of the Lord and the gracious purpose of God’s eternal plan for salvation shape your heart for Jesus!
“Her (Mary’s) Son first had to be the Child of the Father in order then to become man and be capable of taking up on his shoulders the burden of a guilty world.”
ONE: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. (This was the first enrollment when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
TWO: Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
ONE: And all went to be enrolled to their own cities. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
TWO: But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released Barabbas, the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for, but Jesus he delivered up to their will.
ONE: And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.
TWO: And when they came to the place which is called the skull, there they crucified him, and two criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
ONE: And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him swaddling cloths…
TWO: And they cast lots to divide his garments.
ONE: …and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
TWO: And the people stood by, watching.
ONE: And an angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. And they were filled with fear! But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
TWO: But the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others! If this IS the Christ of God, God’s chosen One, let him save himself!”
ONE: And this will be a sign for you…
TWO: And while the sun’s light failed, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!”
ONE: ….You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths…
TWO: Then Joseph of Arimathea took down the body of Jesus and wrapped it in a linen shroud…
ONE: …and lying in a manger.
TWO: …and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb.
Selah. So much for us to ponder. So much for which to be thankful!
TWO: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and earth peace among people of God’s favor!”
ONE: The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid, and returned and prepared spices and ointments.
TWO: When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened that the Lord has made known to us!”
ONE: And on the first day of the week at early dawn they went to the tomb.
TWO: And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
ONE: And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb! But when they went in, they did not see the body!
TWO: And when the shepherds saw the babe lying in the manger, they made known the saying which had been told them concerning the child.
ONE: While they were perplexed about this, suddenly, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel, and they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you when he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinners and be crucified and on the third day rise?”
TWO: And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
ONE: And they did remember his words, and, returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest!
TWO: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them!
ONE: But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
HERE is “Mary, Did You Know?”– a relatively recent Christmas song, written in 1984 by Mark Lowry. The lyrics evolved from a series of questions that Lowry scripted for a Christmas program at his church:
I just tried to put into words the unfathomable. I started thinking of the questions I would have for her if I were to sit down & have coffee with Mary. You know, “What was it like raising God?” “What did you know?” “What didn’t you know?”
None of the questions are answered in the song. Instead, the lyrics poetically invite the listener to contemplate the relationship between Mary and her newborn divine son.
The text has received criticism for perceived ambiguity or lack of scriptural or theological depth. For example, Lutheran writer Holly Scheer, in addressing the rhetorical question of the song’s title, wrote: “Anyone who has even a slight familiarity with the biblical account of Christ’s conception and birth shouldn’t need to ask if Mary knew, because the Bible plainly tells us she did.” Baptist theologian Michael Frost suggests it is the “most sexist Christmas song ever written… It treats her like a clueless child… Could you imagine a song asking Abraham 17 times if he knew he’d be the father of a great nation?”
I agree with the objections, but I also like how this song joins together the birth and the death of Christ. “This child that you’ve delivered . . . Will soon deliver you.”