Third Week in Advent: The Promise
Matthew 5:41, The Romans: What if… New Testament attitudes are verified in other historical sources?
The Romans were the conquerors. The Jews in Judea were not well-respected, and a soldier could ask a man to give him his cloak, to carry his load, or to accept a slap without retaliation. Jews elsewhere actually fared better, and their monotheism was apparently fairly attractive to the Romans, hence the presence of many “God-fearing” non-Jews in the Acts of the Apostles.
Luke 1:5, Zechariah: What if… Zechariah really was a priest?
Zechariah comes from the family of Aaron—the Old Testament tells how Aaronic and Mosaic priesthoods argued, but Aaron’s family was the one that provided priests for the Temple, serving as Zechariah does in the story. Zechariah is struck dumb for questioning God, but Mary (and Abraham earlier) was allowed to question. Perhaps we shouldn’t try to set rules for how God will react, but rather just make sure we keep interacting with Him. And perhaps Zechariah’s silence was a sign as much as a punishment.
Luke 1:22, The Vision: What if… we believed in visions too?
The people in the Temple immediately assumed that Zechariah had seen a vision. What would we assume if a church leader were struck dumb?
Luke 1:28, 1:48, The Angel: What if… “Hail Mary, Full of Grace” is Biblical?
The Catholic prayer, “Hail Mary,” starts with words taken directly from the angel’s announcement. While Christians may argue about Mary’s importance and how she should be addressed, we probably shouldn’t argue against quoting the Bible. And we should probably remember the Bible itself says of her, “All generations will call me blessed.”
Luke 1:39, Mary: What if… she really was afraid?
Mary’s betrothed knew the baby wasn’t his. Her family knew. Maybe running to her cousin’s house to hide her pregnancy would be a natural reaction, in her time and in ours.
Matthew 1:19, Joseph: What if… he could have divorced her?
Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s pregnancy is marked by its kindness. Later in the New Testament we see people about to stone a woman caught in adultery, and, though they weren’t yet married, Mary's pregnancy would still have suggested adultery.
Luke 1:59, John: What if… he should have been called Zechariah?
It would have been more traditional to name the child for his father, but sometimes God wants us to break with tradition.
Luke 1:80, John’s calling: What if… John was a Nazirite?
Hannah dedicated her son Samuel to God, and now Elizabeth does the same with John. It wasn’t uncommon for women granted children late in life to offer them to God. How willing are we to give God control over such precious parts of our lives?