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What IF...Studies: Christmas

A 5-week Advent & Christmas Bible Study in “What IFS ?”
Inspired by Faith and Science:

What if… you could put the whole Bible back into Christmas?
What if… it wasn’t just about presents, or just about a baby?
What if… Christmas doesn’t finish on Christmas day?
What if… the story is more than words can tell?

What is the aim of this study:

• To make Christmas special with Bible readings for every day in December
• To make the celebration continue beyond the season’s end
• To remind us that all the stories in the Bible belong to one tale.
• To provide a companion volume to Christmas! Genesis to Revelation in 100 words a day


First Week in Advent: The Beginning

Genesis 1:3 Creation: What if… there really was light without the sun?
Look for the parallels between Genesis 1 and the story told by science in evolution and geology:
• A planet clouded with toxic gasses – light and dark, but the sun is still hidden.
• Rainwater washing volcanic poisons from the air.
• Plants adding oxygen and cleaning out i…

Genesis, chapters 46 - 50

Lesson 9: Israel in Egypt: Genesis 46-50
What if… faith and science agree on Israel going to Egypt?

The Land of Goshen:
What if… Egyptians didn’t like shepherds?

In Genesis 45:16-20 Pharaoh promises the best land to Joseph’s family. But Joseph is clearly nervous and needs God’s reassurance that this is okay (Genesis 46:1-4). He reminds his family (Genesis 46:31-34) that the Egyptians really don’t like herdsmen. When Pharoah gives them the land of Goshen he puts them in charge of his livestock (Genesis 47:6), but livestock certainly wouldn’t be kept on the best land.

Goshen may well be a hilly area near the Nile delta. Egyptians would not want to live there, so the Israelites would live undisturbed for almost 400 years, able to consolidate their stories and their beliefs without the pollution of foreign mythologies. Perhaps this was God’s provision for them, a time of strengthening.

When a later Pharaoh began building the city of Rameses in the delta, the Israelites would have been the obvio…

Genesis, chapters 37 & 39-45

Lesson 8: Joseph: Genesis 37 & 39-45
What if… Joseph really was a pain?

Joseph’s Childhood (Genesis 37):
The stories of Joseph’s childhood are probably quite familiar, but the details may be less so.
Joseph’s Coat:
Genesis 37:1-4. Note, Joseph appears to be a teenager, not a little boy, when he gets his coat.
Joseph’s Dreams:
Genesis 37:5-11. Did Joseph’s brothers hate him because his father loved him, or because he kept telling them that he was better than them? Certainly he doesn’t appear to the most tactful of younger brothers.
Joseph Threatened:
Genesis 37:19-24. Note that Reuben is playing the good older brother part. He seems to want Joseph scared rather than harmed.
Joseph Sold:
Genesis 37:25-29. Note, Reuben does not take part in selling Joseph, and this clearly isn’t what he planned for. It’s interesting to note the traders are Ishmaelites – there is still travel and trade between the two tribes.
Joseph Mourned:
Genesis 37:31-35. Jacob’s sons and daughters try to console him. Probably…

Genesis - chapters 24-36 & 38

Lesson 7: Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 24-36 & 38)

What if… God wants us to question faith and science?

God speaks to Abraham:
Genesis 12:1-2, 6-7; 15:1-6; 17:1-14; 22:15-18. God repeats His promises to Abraham, almost as if Abraham needs reminders, just like we do, that He can be trusted.
Genesis 18:16-33. Abraham argues with God, a reminder that this is a real relationship, where we’re allowed, maybe even expected, to complain and ask questions (as science does).
Genesis 18:1-3. Some traditions suggest that Abraham’s visitors were angels, and that one was the pre-incarnate Christ – God in human form. Whoever they were, Abraham related to them as he would be expected to relate to visitors.

God speaks to Isaac:
Isaac’s mother dies, leaving Abraham and his son alone. The story of the search for a wife for Isaac starts in the very next chapter. Perhaps Isaac’s impending marriage is triggered by his mother’s death. Certainly it’s followed by Abraham’s remarriage in Genesis 25:1-6.

Genesis 23:2-…

Genesis - chapters 12-23

Lesson 6: Abraham’s Family: Genesis 12-23

What if… faith and science agree on history and culture and traditions?

Abraham’s Wives:
What if… someone says Abraham had three wives?

Sarai:
Sarai as Abraham’s sister? Read Genesis 12:10-13, 20:1-3. Actually, calling your wife your sister wasn’t an uncommon practice at the time. In Genesis 26:6-7. Isaac plays the same trick on Abimelech as his father did before him – though it may be Abimelech’s son… And in other historical records, the same idea is repeated – an attempt to avoid the alternative where a king kills the husband to gain access to the wife (as David eventually did to Uriah).

In fact, since Sarai was probably related by blood to Abraham, she may technically have been his “sister” as well as his wife, since the same word would have covered many types of cousin. So maybe Abram didn’t lie.

Hagar:
Servant as surrogate mother? Read Genesis 16:1-4. Another culturally common practice, particularly in Egypt, was that of a servant giving birth to…

Genesis - chapters 10-19

Lesson 5: Nations and Peoples (Genesis 10-19)

What if… faith and science agree on how we lived in ancient times?

The lists in Genesis 10 contain 70 names of nations and people (or peoples). It reads like a relational list, not complete list of peoples. And 70 may well be a symbolic number—7 for God’s plan times 10 for something countable for man. (There are lots of sevens in the Bible, and lots of tens; most significantly God resting on the seventh day, and ten commandments.)

Note, the ages of parents become more “normal” over time, possibly representing increased numeracy; possibly a change in lifestyle and health; or possibly more attention paid to the distinction between father, grandfather, tribal elder, etc., reflecting more words as the language develops.

The Tower of Babel:
What if… humanity really did spread out from the Fertile Crescent?
Read Genesis 11:1-9: Genesis 10 told of Noah’s descendants spreading throughout the known world. In chapter 11, the Tower of Babel gives another …