Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas reflections: the expectation

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?


Susan said...

I am glad people are recognising that showing emotion is not a disqualifying feature of the mother of God. I, too, was disappointed in the way Mary was cast in this movie, so bland and uniformly responsive to everything that happened. There were no kick-off-your-shoes abandonment-to-God moments, nothing to make us really love and identify with Mary as a human being. I hope to get a chance to read Scot's book in the near future.

Erika Haub said...

For me, the expectation of God acting and intervening and fulfilling each and every one of his promises is the only thing that makes my life make any sense; indeed, it is the only thing that makes my life possible where I am. Your words here describe the very things I cling to when life in the hard places feels unbearable:

"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."

Ted Gossard said...

Susan, Thanks for your perspective on this. I believe you'll find the book helpful in giving a well rounded view of Mary as human and a person of faith, according to Scripture, which has largely been lost in the portrayal of her both from Protestants and Catholics.

Ted Gossard said...

Erika, Thanks for your perspective, also. Your work in the hard places reminds me of Mary's work in the hard place God had entrusted to her.

Anonymous said...

Hello dear Blogowner!
I just want to present you this site: - there you find nice counters which count your visitors on your blog!
Just copy the HTML-Code from and paste it under your blog.

Ted Gossard said...

Kevin, Thanks much. I guess I don't care to have a counter. I don't want to be driven by the number of clicks this blog might get. Plus more than half of them will probably be my own anyhow, since I tend to be gregarious, normally.

Dan Brennan said...


Great question and post. You know, from my experience, many of us, not just those in hard places, struggle with hope. Hope for our marriages, hope to be married, hope for our grown up children who are not following the Lord, hope for our provision when we are physically struggling to cope with life, etc. Mary's story reminds me God's salvation visits us on earth, His kingdom visits us on earth, and encourages me to pray for God's kingdom in the immediate and future.

Ted Gossard said...

Dan. Thanks. And thanks for your great point here.

I'm sure Mary struggled too. But with her, we have a hope from God that won't die, no matter what. That keeps us persevering to see God's kingdom come in everything. Just as you say.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for your post. I have been attempting to see the movie, but have been unable as of yet.

Thanks for your thoughts on Mary. I think they are spot on.

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks, Allan. I think you'll be glad to have seen it, and I look forward to anything you may share with us about it.