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An Advent Message From Rev. Mark Tremblay, Knox Presbyterian Church

The birth of Jesus is told to us by Matthew and Luke;  and the stories are different.  One tells the story of a shining star, Magi, priests and political leaders with attempts to murder the child – all reminiscent of the story of Moses. The other tells of a census, Shepherds, an unsuitable place for birth and angels proclaiming peace to those whom God favours. The two accounts cannot be reconciled as they have contradictory details. They are not factual or literal accounts of what happened but represent theological reflections by Matthew and Luke; they are additions to an existing collection of stories about Jesus upon which each writer forms and places their distinctive imprint.

Matthew’s infancy story in chapter 2 of his gospel is like a summary of the whole story that will follow; we may also call it an overture. Here we are introduced to the themes and events that will happen as the story unfolds. In Matthew the stories about Jesus evoke one of two responses: belief or disbelief – not everybody who hears what Jesus did and what happened to him will be convinced. Moreover, people are not convinced because they believe there was a star, that the birth came from one who was a virgin or that there were angels who spoke in dreams.

The Christmas season marks that time when we can hear again the introduction to the stories of Jesus. The Magi were seekers. I am sympathetic with the Magi; I think I understand them. They left their homeland. They took a chance and followed an instinct. They were outsiders looking for hope in a foreign land; looking for meaning in foreign ideas. They were looking for answers for so many of the questions concerning life and the universe they pondered. I admire their courage, their diligence in seeking. In Matthew’s story they represent all Gentiles, non-Jews, who are seeking, who are able to see and understand the signs of the times. They represent the focus of the mission that is proclaimed at the end of Matthew’s story about Jesus, a mission that is directed to all people.

In Matthew Jesus is called Emmanuel. God is with us. We are not alone. There is a plan for humanity, or at least, a plan for the kind of human being we are called to be. In Jesus we see the kind of human being we could be. In Jesus we see the son of a new humanity. Some will refuse to believe it. Violent humanity will never change and never allow change. Others will see the possibility and feel hope. Matthew knew this when he first assembled the stories of the teaching of Jesus and decided to add a story of Jesus’ birth. Life in the midst of the threat of violence and death! That is the point.

Rev. Mark Tremblay can be reached at Knox Presbyterian Church 403-242-1808 or by e-mail at minister@knoxcalgary.ca