Monday, December 21, 2015

Pre-Class Information for 12/27/15

This week please read the New Testament narratives of Jesus' birth from the New Testament:

Matthew 1:1-2:23

Luke 1:1-2:40

John 1:1-14

Try to read these carefully, as if for the first time. See if you notice anything different this time.

Below you will find links to four interesting articles you may want to read before Sunday. These are four very different takes on the Christmas story, one from a Roman Catholic Bible Scholar, one from the President of Yale Divinity School, one from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and finally, one from Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

1. Two Christmas Stories: An Analysis of New Testament Narratives:

Daniel Harrington is a well-respected Catholic biblical scholar

2. How December 25th Became Christmas:

Andrew McGowan is Dean and President of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and McFaddin Professor of Anglican Studies at Yale Divinity School.

3. Here is a less scholarly, but interesting article from CBN titled The Birth of Jesus in the New Testament: One Event – Four Narratives:

4. Finally, here is an article by Dr. Albert Mohler titled, Where Does the Story of Christmas begin?:

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. is President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 

Talk About It: Discussion questions for Sunday:

1. Are the specifics (historicity, genealogies, etc…) of Jesus' birth narrative as given in the New Testament important? Why or why not?

2. Why do you think there are differences among the gospel writers in the nativity story? Why would Mark not think it was important enough to even mention? Why the different emphases by the authors?

3. What is the importance of the Virgin Birth?

4. Why do you think the Passion Narrative trumped the Nativity?

5. How important are all the prophecies about Jesus which were fulfilled according to the birth and infancy narratives?

6. What are some aspects of Christmas as we celebrate it today that aren't in the Bible?

7. If something we do/celebrate about Christmas is not in the Bible, is it "wrong" to celebrate the occasion that way?

Bonus Material: Little Known Facts About Christmas

1. Christmas supposedly marks the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25. But there is no mention of December 25 in the Bible and most historians actually believe he was born in the spring.

2. December 25 was probably chosen because it coincided with the ancient pagan festival Saturnalia, which celebrated the agricultural god Saturn with partying, gambling, and gift-giving.

3. Many of the popular Christmas traditions today found their roots in Saturnalia: Branches from evergreen trees were used during winter solstice as a reminder of the green plants that would grow in spring when the sun gods grew strong.

4. These evergreen branches became the foundation of our Christmas tree. Germans are thought to be the first to bring “Christmas trees” into their homes at the holidays and decorate them with cookies and lights.

5. The Christmas tree made its way to America in the 1830s but wasn’t popular until 1846, after Germany’s Prince Albert brought it to England when he married Queen Victoria. The two were sketched in front of a Christmas tree and the tradition instantly became popular. Royal fever was real even back then.

6. The well-known reason we give presents at Christmas is to symbolize the gifts given to baby Jesus by the three wise men. But it may also stem from the Saturnalia tradition that required revelers to offer up rituals to the gods.

7. Because of its roots in pagan festivals, Christmas was not immediately accepted by the religious. In fact, from 1659 to 1681, it was illegal to celebrate Christmas in Boston. You were fined if you were caught celebrating.

8. Santa Claus comes from St. Nicholas, a Christian bishop living in (what is now) Turkey in the fourth century AD. St. Nicholas had inherited a great deal of wealth and was known for giving it away to help the needy. When sainted, he became the protector of children.

9. After his death, the legend of St. Nicholas spread. St. Nick’s name became Sint-Nicolaas in Dutch, or Sinter Klaas for short. Which is only a hop, skip, and jump to Santa Claus.

10. Santa Claus delivering presents comes from Holland’s celebration of St. Nicholas’ feast day on December 6. Children would leave shoes out the night before and, in the morning, would find little gifts that St. Nicholas would leave them.

11. And stockings come from this story: A poor man with three daughters couldn’t afford the dowry to have them married. One night, St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the man’s chimney so that his oldest daughter would be able to get married, and the bag fell into a stocking that was drying by the fire.

12. One of the reasons we leave milk and cookies for Santa is because Dutch kids would leave food and drink for St. Nicholas on his feast day.

13. And we leave carrots for Santa Claus’ reindeer because, in Norse mythology, people left hay and treats for Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir “in hopes the god would stop by their home during his Yule hunting adventures.” Dutch children adopted this tradition too, and would treats for St. Nick’s horse.

14. The look of Santa Claus we have today was created at an 1804 meeting of the New York Historical Society, where member John Pintard handed out wooden cutouts of jolly old St. Nick in front of stockings filled with toys.

15. Though Santa Claus has worn blue and white and green in the past, his traditional red suit came from a 1930s ad by Coca Cola.

16. And the image of him Santa Claus flying in a sleigh started in 1819...and was dreamt up by the same author who created the Headless Horseman, Washington Irving.

17. Rudolph was actually conceived by a department store, Montgomery Ward, as a marketing gimmick to get kids to buy holiday coloring books.

18. The first batch of eggnog in America was crafted at Captain John Smith’s Jamestown settlement in 1607, and the name eggnog comes from the word “grog,” which refers to any drink made with rum.

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