Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Luke, Chapter 2: Miraculous Miracles

So in Mark, which is actually the earliest gospel even though it appears second in the bible, we start off in medias res with Jesus already an adult and performing miracles. But then the end of the world didn't happen, so Matthew amps up the dramatic story and pithy sermons. By the time Luke comes along a few generations later, he's going for full-out bombast, adding miraculous and contradictory details to Matthew's narrative at every possible turn. I'm not going to point out the contradictions, as they've all been pointed out many, many times before by people far more pedantic than I.

Anyway, Luke's version: Cesar orders what is called a tax by the KJV, and a census by many of the other translations. For some bizarre reason, he orders everybody back to their home cities to register for this event. What a logistical nightmare!

Joseph is a descendent of David, so he needs to go back to Bethlehem to register, along with Mary, who is now heavily pregnant. When they arrive, there is no room at the inn because of the crazy logistical nightmare that would so obviously be created by forcing everyone to return to their ancestral homes to register for a tax, so like every bad sitcom ever, Mary goes into labour. And like every sitcom ever, she gives birth in the barn and lays the kid out in a manger.

Meanwhile, out in a field somewhere, an angel, probably Gabriel, because he's the only one, appears to some shepherds and tells them a miracle has happened in Bethlehem and to go there and worship the baby in the manger. So they go, and after figuring out the mix-up with Brian, they find the proper baby and start worshipping him.

Eight days later, Jesus is circumcised and named. A couple of weeks after that, Mary is ready to sacrifice her two turtledoves or pigeons and they start off for home. No word on whether they've spent this entire time in the barn with their kid sleeping in a food trough.

Rather than going straight back to Nazareth like any sane new mother would want to do, Mary and Joseph head to Jerusalem to do more new-baby things. Waiting for them is a crazy person named Simeon, who has been told that he will not die until he sees the Messiah. He grabs the baby and calls him a miracle, then goes off to die happy.

Next up on the crazy train is a prophetess named Anna, who also pronounces the baby the saviour. Mary, it should be mentioned, is lapping all this up, but what parent in history wasn't convinced that his or her kid wasn't a Messiah/Michelangelo/Mozart/miracle?

Finally, finally, Joseph and Mary are able to head back to Nazareth for some peace and quiet. And again like a bad sitcom, Jesus grows up in one verse. We next see him 12 years later in Jerusalem, where he is at the family Passover feast. Now, despite church teaching that Mary stayed a virgin all her life and Jesus had no siblings, they somehow manage to leave him behind. And then they don't notice for an entire day. Parents of the year, those two.

After three days of frantically calling relatives, they finally find him in the temple. They scold him for making them worry, but Jesus, clearly already a smart-mouth, replies How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? (v. 49) They're too tired to argue, so they simply take him back to Nazareth, where he continues to be too big for his britches.

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