Meeting Mr. Scratch, Part 1

I have four children under the age of nine, so I’ve spent several years hunting for good children’s bibles. And beyond the typical earmarks of prose and illustration, there are always two places I turn to. First is the story of Noah’s Ark. Does Noah build the ark because God is going to destroy mankind, or does Noah build the ark because he wants to save zoo animals from a big flood? The former is important to me not because I’m big on wrath, but because I’m big on truth, and regardless of what you or I may think about Old Testament violence, God’s reason for the flood is in there, and I think without it the story of Noah’s Ark becomes disconnected from the overarching bible narrative that leads to Christ. And if a bible leaves out the reason for the flood, it’ll leave out a lot of other things too.

The second thing I look for in a children’s bible is even more important to me, and yet I have to compromise on it almost every time. It’s the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, when Jesus leaves his baptism for some serious one-on-one time with his Heavenly Father and ends up being tempted by the Devil to compromise the purpose of his ministry before it even gets off the ground. Out of the scores of bibles I’ve read for young children, only two of them include this story at all. 99% of them skip it entirely, moving from the baptism by John straight to the calling of his apostles on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18-20). Continue reading

The Ellipsis and the Light

I don’t approve of ellipses in stories. You know, when something dramatic happens in a story and then you get those terrible words, “Two Years Later….” What happened in that dot-dot-dot? How did our hero recover from that car crash, and what? he married someone else? and he has kids now? and the dog died how?

The Gospel According to Luke gives us what is probably the worst ellipsis in the history of the written word. We see Joseph and Mary’s failure to remember (or recognize?) the divinity of their twelve-year-old son, they leave for home, and 

Eighteen Years Later…

Friends, that is harsh. Most likely Joseph died during this time (see John 19:26-27). Most likely Jesus learned his father’s trade and then threw it away. And don’t forget about John. What was he like as a teenager? Was it hard when he left home for the desert? Did Zechariah suffer disgrace before the teachers of the law? Is Zechariah even still alive? And odds are, since Jesus and John were cousins, they may have spent time together as children, as young men. What did that look like?

But no, friends, we will have to be grateful for what little we’ve been given, and like the Beloved Physician, we will move on to the important stuff. Continue reading

Mercy in Disguise

I as I said before, my notes on the nativity are thin. But I do have a couple things I’d like to point out at the end of the story, after all the angels and shepherds have left the scene. And for me, this is when things really get interesting. Remember, friends, the Beloved Physician shares this sentiment with me. Unlike Matthew, Luke spends little time on the details of Jesus’ birth, focusing instead on the prophecies beforehand and the resuming of life after. Luke doesn’t even mention the Magi, which is one of the best parts of the narrative. Instead, Luke moves quickly from the stable to the temple. It’s Jesus’ early relationship to the temple and its purpose that interest Luke most, and he spends almost 300 words more talking about Simeon, Anna, and the 12-year-old Jesus than he does about the not-so-silent night in the stable. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Nativities

While in college, I worked for three years in a toy store. Three Black Fridays, friends. I sold toys by the trash-bag-full and gave away free Tickle Me Elmos and Furbies to reward customers for keeping the American economy alive for one more year. Many years later and I still struggle with the traditional sentimentality of Christmas, because, folks, I’ve seen its dark underbelly. Give me the unbelievers made mute and the shame of nontraditional wedlock against the backdrop of ancient tyrannies every time.

Anyway, the Nativity in the Gospel According to Luke spans all of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2, and my notes here are thin. But I do have some observations. Continue reading