The Christmas Story from the Gospel of Luke

December 17, 2014

This Wednesday we are completing our three-part series on the Christmas advent. Our readings begin with prophecies from Isaiah, the nativity in Luke, and then Paul’s understanding of angels and sons.

It would be wonderful if you could join us in person, but calling on your cell phone works too.  Last week, we were visited by three wise women who listened to last Wednesday’s lesson about Matthew’s wise men, but these modern ladies used our easy cell phone technology instead of traveling by night on camels!

If you look on the readings page, you will see one of the many paintings by Rembrandt of “Simeon in the Temple.” According to many internet sources, this painting may have been Rembrandt’s last painting as it was found unfinished in his workshop the day after he died.  I believe that the connection between this painting and Luke 2:26 is very meaningful to fans of Rembrandt and religious art historians.
When we first started this series, someone mentioned that she didn’t remember studying about the advent in Sunday School. I will revert to my Sunday School teaching days for a moment, and have everyone look in the dictionary, specifically Webster’s 1828 online dictionary which defines advent as follows:
“A coming; appropriately the coming of our Savior, and in the calendar, it includes four sabbaths before Christmas, beginning of St. Andrew’s Day, or on the sabbath next before or after it. It is intended as a season of devotion, with reference to the coming of Christ in the flesh, and his second coming to judge the world.”

 In Retrospection and Introspection, Mrs. Eddy wrote:

    “No person can take the individual place of the Virgin Mary. No person can compass or fulfil the individual mission of Jesus of Nazareth. No person can take the place of the author of Science and Health, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity.
      The second appearing of Jesus is, unquestionably, the spiritual advent of the advancing idea of God, as in Christian Science.” (p. 70)
It is so interesting to me that Mrs. Eddy uses both definitions of advent (the earthly advent and nativity of Jesus and the advent of divine healing) throughout her writings. I especially love this paragraph from “The Cry of Christmas-tide” in Miscellaneous Writings,
   “In different ages the divine idea assumes different forms, according to humanity’s needs. In this age it assumes, more intelligently than ever before, the form of Christian healing. This is the babe we are to cherish.  This is the babe that twines its loving arms about the neck of omnipotence, and calls forth infinite care from His loving heart.” (p. 370)

The Christmas Story from the Gospel of Matthew

December 10, 2014
We have Christmas readings from the Gospel of Matthew which highlight the fulfillment of
Old Testament prophecies, such as the appearance of a star, a virgin birth, gifts from kings, and even those camels!  There are also links to Bible Notes (check out the interesting women listed in Jesus’ family tree) and to some reference material on Publius Lentulus, who was supposedly a Roman Governor of Judea before Pontius Pilate. The Science and Health readings begin with a “tradition” about Lentulus’ early identification of Jesus as the Son of God, and once again, I am amazed at Mrs. Eddy’s vast knowledge of ancient Christian history.
Please send me an email If you don’t have a jsh-online subscription and want to listen to James Spencer’s podcast on the supposed Lentulus letter which he describes as a “springboard to launch into an explanation of the most momentous, sacred, pure expression of the human and divine coincidence that has ever appeared—the birth of Christ Jesus.”
Have you ever noticed the similarities between the Old and New Testament Josephs, especially the guidance they both receive from their dreams?

Christmas and John the Baptist

December 3, 2014

Does the beginning of Science and Health remind you of any particular holiday? If you don’t have your textbook handy, here is the first paragraph of the Preface (vii:1):
To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is
big with blessings. The wakeful shepherd beholds
the first faint morning beams, ere cometh the full radiance
of a risen day. So shone the pale star to the prophet-
shepherds; yet it traversed the night, and came where, in
cradled obscurity, lay the Bethlehem babe, the human
herald of Christ, Truth, who would make plain to be‐
nighted understanding the way of salvation through Christ
Jesus, till across a night of error should dawn the morn‐
ing beams and shine the guiding star of being. The Wise‐
men were led to behold and to follow this daystar of
divine Science, lighting the way to eternal harmony.
Wakeful shepherd…, cradled obscurity…, Bethlehem babe…, guiding star…, and Wisemen… are all Christmas symbols, and isn’t it wonderful that Mrs. Eddy began her textbook heralding the Advent, the first season of the Christian church year!  Of this holiday season, Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Miscellany, “Again loved Christmas is here, full of divine benedictions and crowned with the dearest memories in human history — the earthly advent and nativity of our Lord and Master. At this happy season the veil of time springs aside at the touch of Love. We count our blessings and see whence they came and whither they tend.” (My. 256:17)
Our Wednesday readings will be following the advent story beginning with the birth of John the Baptist, a New Testament prophet and cousin of Jesus who “prepared the way of the Lord.” (Is. 40:3) Then on the following Wednesdays, we will be reading the nativity story through the eyes of Joseph (Matthew’s version), and then through the eyes of Mary (Luke’s version).
The readings on John the Baptist begin with some of the earlier comparable prophets, including Jeremiah who saw “an almond tree.” According to the Bible commentaries, an almond tree is an early blooming tree, and the Hebrew word for “almond” comes from a root word that means “awake” or “wakeful.” How appropriate, then, for Luke to begin his nativity story with John the Baptist!