Again, having seen The Nativity Story for the second time, I would have to concur with Scot McKnight, on the premise of his new book, The Real Mary, that while the film is very good, the Mary character could have been better. The acting was fine. But the interpretation of Mary is more in line with the traditional pious, passive role attributed to her. Scot shows in his book that the Mary of Scripture was likely different. She felt emotions of anger with the hope of God's justice, at the oppression of her people. That these matters were on her mind is evident when reading the Magnificat, her song.
Part of what's missing in our traditional view of Mary and her time is the hope of Israel that was prevalent then. It was an expectation to see the Roman empire, and Herod, put in their proper place. In other words out of place, and out of power. Because with the coming of the promised Messiah there would be justice and peace for all, not only in the land, but through all the earth.
The deuteroncanonical or "apocryphal" books, you can find in some of our Bibles (like editions of the NRSV) were written during the intertestamental time, and are windows into the Jewish hope and expectation of what God was going to do. What his will was, and how that would be fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. This is much more evident there than in the Old Testament books we carry. And it was at the heart of what Israel was looking for when Jesus came.
Mary knew this. She knew Scripture and believed that this Messiah would be living in the face of all other kings. So as to overthrow them, and bring God's good reign of shalom to earth. Mary was right. So right. But wrong in how that would come about.
Yes. Jesus in his coming brings the kingdom of God. This kingdom is satisfied with nothing less than God's rule of justice and peace to the entire world. It begins now. But is achieved in Jesus and in his death and resurrection. Along with his ascension and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all flesh. On his people to be his light and salt to all.
We inherit this expectation and see it, as having unfolded to already be active in the world, though not yet finished. We're involved in this work which is finished when Christ returns to earth.
This is why such confidence in governments of this world for us as God's people, is so misplaced. We should be those who want to hold all governments accountable to the King of kings and Lord of lords. In view of God's kingdom, and the vision of that kingdom given to us in Scripture.
And this should give us a renewed confidence to work in the hard places where there seems to be little hope. God's reign extends to all, and to every nook and cranny. And he gifts his people to do these various good works as those knowing this great hope that we know will be completely fulfilled among us, in Jesus.
What does the hope and expectation of Israel mean to you, this Christmas season? What part can each of us as those in Jesus play in it?