Moses by John August Swanson. Image from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source © 1983 by John August Swanson.
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Birth of Jesus
Luke 2:1-14 (or 2:1-20) Commentary
by Holly Hearon
The story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Luke is deceptive in its simplicity.
Too familiar with the words, we hardly hear them as we are led seamlessly from one scene to the next. Yet woven into the story are three distinct worlds, each of which is described in the narrative by its own space, people, and purpose. These worlds bump up against each other in ways that reveal unanticipated tensions in a story said to deliver news of great joy for all people.
The first world that we encounter is the world of political power. This world is not nameless and faceless. Its presence is constituted in the story by the person of the Emperor Augustus and his governor, Quirinius, who is charged with registering the inhabitants of Syria. From a literary perspective, whether or not the census took place historically at this time is immaterial. More important is the effect of the census within the narrative world of the text. It transports Joseph and his soon-to-be wife from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birthplace of David. Although Luke does not mention, as Matthew does, that Bethlehem ...
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2019-20 Worship resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
NL156: Birth of Jesus
December 24, 2014
Narrative Lectionary podcast on readings for Dec. 24, 2014: Luke 2:1-14 [15-20] (Accompanying text: Psalm 96:10-13).