Simeon addressed Mary (Lk 2:34-2:34)

“Then Simeon

Blessed them.

He said to Mary,

His mother,

‘This child

Is destined

For the falling

And rising

Of many

In Israel.

He will be a sign

That will be opposed.”

 

καὶ εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς Συμεὼν καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς Μαριὰμ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ Ἰδοὺ οὗτος κεῖται εἰς πτῶσιν καὶ ἀνάστασιν πολλῶν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ εἰς σημεῖον ἀντιλεγόμενον

 

Luke said that this holy and devout Simeon turned to Mary and her family.  Simeon blessed them (καὶ εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς Συμεὼν), presumably Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  Was this a priestly blessing?  There was no indication that Simeon was a priest, but only an old devout righteous man, but he could have been a old Levite priest also.  Then he said to Mary (καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς Μαριὰμ), the mother of Jesus (τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ) that this child would be destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel (Ἰδοὺ οὗτος κεῖται εἰς πτῶσιν καὶ ἀνάστασιν πολλῶν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ).  He would be a sign that would be a contraction, as some would oppose him (καὶ εἰς σημεῖον ἀντιλεγόμενον).  Everything would not be smooth sailing for her and this child.  However, this was not as bad as what Matthew, chapter 2:13-18, had Joseph suffer.  There the intention of King Herod was to destroy all the young children in Bethlehem that led him to flee into Egypt.  Luke had none of that here.  Instead, Joseph and Mary are law abiding Jewish parents active in the Jerusalem Temple, where a holy man came and told them how wonderful Jesus was.  There were no Magi here, just shepherds visiting the baby child.  King Herod was not even in the picture here in Luke.

The sign (Lk 2:12-2:12)

“This this will be

A sign

For you.

You will find

A child

Wrapped in

Bands

Of swaddling cloth,

Lying in a manger.”

 

καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν σημεῖον, εὑρήσετε βρέφος ἐσπαργανωμένον καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ.

 

Luke said that the angel told the shepherds that there would be a sign for them (καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν σημεῖον) in order to find this baby child (εὑρήσετε βρέφος) that would be a Savior, Messiah, Christ, and Lord.  This baby child would be wrapped in bands of swaddling cloth (ἐσπαργανωμένον), lying in a manger (καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ).  Instead of the sign of a star, as in Matthew, chapter 2:2, they were told about a place with a manger.  These shepherds did not bring any gifts with them, unlike the Magi with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh in Matthew, chapter 2:11.

The Christmas scene birth of Jesus (Lk 2:7-2:7)

“Mary gave birth

To her first-born son.

She wrapped him

In bands

Of swaddling cloths.

She laid him

In a manger,

Because there was

No place

For them

In the inn.”

 

καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.

 

Luke explained in great detail about the birth of Jesus, his clothing, and the manger, that has become the famous Christmas scene that most have come to know and love.  Matthew, chapter 2:1, had no details like this in his story about the birth of Jesus, while Mark and John had no infancy narratives at all.  In fact, Matthew said that the Magi visited Mary and the child in a house in chapter 2:11, not a manger.  Luke reported that Mary gave birth to her first-born son (καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον).  Did that imply that there were other children?  Within the Jewish tradition, the first-born male child would be dedicated to God with special legal and family rights, as indicated in Exodus, chapter 13:2, where Yahweh got the first-born of everything, as a consecration to God.  In Numbers, chapter 3:12, the Levites take the place of the first born as a dedication to God.  In Deuteronomy, chapter 21:17, the first born had all the rights versus the other children.  Mary wrapped the baby Jesus with bands of cloth or swaddling clothes (καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν), as it is often called.  These tight bands of cloth kept the arms and legs of the newborn from wailing away, while also keeping the child warm.  Then Mary laid him in a manger (καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ), because there was no place for them in the lodging inn (διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι).  This manger (ἐν φάτνῃ) was a feeding trough for horses and cattle.  Thus, Jesus was born in a place where animals would feed.  He then would offer himself as the bread of life.  Apparently, they were in a barn because there were no appropriate lodging places for a pregnant expecting woman.  There was no indication that Joseph had other relatives in Bethlehem where they might stay.  Just by coincidence, I am posting this blog on December 24, 2018, Christmas Eve.

Zechariah the priest (Lk 1:5-1:5)

“In the days

Of King Herod

Of Judea,

There was a priest

Named Zechariah.

He belonged to

The priestly order

Of Abijah.

His wife was

A descendant

Of Aaron.

Her name

Was Elizabeth.”

 

Ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας ἱερεύς τις ὀνόματι Ζαχαρίας ἐξ ἐφημερίας Ἀβιά, καὶ γυνὴ αὐτῷ ἐκ τῶν θυγατέρων Ἀαρών, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς Ἐλεισάβετ.

 

The first person that Luke introduced was Zechariah.  None of the other gospel writers mentioned Zechariah.  However, Luke placed him within a historical context.  This all this took place during the reign of King Herod of Judea (Ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας).  Matthew, chapter 2:1-12, had mentioned King Herod and the intriguing story of the Magi.  King Herod the Great (74 BCE-1 CE) was the Roman client king of Judea.  In fact, the Roman Senate named him King of the Jews in 40 BCE.  He built many things during his reign, including expanding the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  At his death, his kingdom was divided among his children.  There was a prophet and book of Zechariah, chapter 1:1, who lived around 520 BCE.  However, this Zechariah here (τις ὀνόματι Ζαχαρίας) was a priest (ἱερεύς), probably in Jerusalem.  He belonged to the priestly division of Abijah (ἐξ ἐφημερίας Ἀβιά), which was the 8th of the 24 divisions of priests that served in the Temple as laid out in 1 Chronicles, chapter 24:7-19.  His wife was also a daughter or descendant of Aaron (καὶ γυνὴ αὐτῷ ἐκ τῶν θυγατέρων Ἀαρών), a Levite or part of the priestly class.  She was called Elizabeth (καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς Ἐλεισάβετ).  Thus, the action of his gospel begins with the unique story of the Jerusalem Temple priest Zachariah and his Levite wife Elizabeth.  Some biblical scholars think that this infancy story, like the infancy story of Matthew, chapter 1:18-2:23, are later additions.  They are here, so I will deal with it.

The Magi go home (Mt 2:12-2:12)

“Having been warned

In a dream

Not to return

To Herod,

They left

For their own country

By another road.”

 

καὶ χρηματισθέντες κατ’ ὄναρ μὴ ἀνακάμψαι πρὸς Ἡρῴδην, δι’ ἄλλης ὁδοῦ ἀνεχώρησαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν.

 

The magi were warned (χρηματισθέντες) not to return to Herod (μὴ ἀνακάμψαι πρὸς Ἡρῴδην) in some sort of divine dream (κατ’ ὄναρ). This led them to withdraw from this scene and return to their own country (ἀνεχώρησαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν), wherever that may be.   They were not going to stop to see King Herod, as he had asked them to do. Thus, they went home using another road (δι’ ἄλλης ὁδοῦ), avoiding Jerusalem. So, ends the saga of these worshipping magi, magicians, wise men, or kings. Clearly, they symbolize the outreach of Jesus to other than Jewish people, but beyond that, it is difficult to say more. The idea of 3 kings does not come from the text itself. It can only be implied from the 3 gifts that were presented, but from nothing else.

The Magi find Mary and the child (Mt 2:11-2:11)

“On entering the house,

They saw the child

With Mary,

His mother.

 

καὶ ἐλθόντες εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν εἶδον τὸ παιδίον μετὰ Μαρίας τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ,

 

The magi entered the house (ἐλθόντες εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν).  Unlike the story in Luke, chapter 2:7, the child was in a house (τὴν οἰκίαν), not a manger (φάτνῃ).  They saw the child (εἶδον τὸ παιδίον) with his mother, Mary (Μαρίας τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ).  There was no mention of Joseph, who had been a key player in the earlier part of this narrative.  In fact, he will also play an important role in what was to come.

The Magi follow the star (Mt 2:9-2:10)

“When they had heard out

The king,

They set out

On their way.

There ahead of them

Went the star

That they had seen

Rising in the east.

It stopped

Over the place

Where the child was.

When they saw

That the star

Had stopped,

They were overwhelmed

With joy.”

 

οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες τοῦ βασιλέως ἐπορεύθησαν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ὁ ἀστὴρ, ὃν εἶδον ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ, προῆγεν αὐτούς ἕως ἐλθὼν ἐστάθη ἐπάνω οὗ ἦν τὸ παιδίον.

ἰδόντες δὲ τὸν ἀστέρα ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα.

 

When the magi had finished their conversation with King Herod (οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες τοῦ βασιλέως), they set out on their way (ἐπορεύθησαν) to Bethlehem.  Then they saw that the star in the eastern skies (δοὺ ὁ ἀστὴρ, ὃν εἶδον ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ).  This star led them until it stopped (προῆγεν αὐτούς ἕως ἐλθὼν ἐστάθη) over the place where the child was (ἐπάνω οὗ ἦν τὸ παιδίον).  They were really happy with exceeding great joy (ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα) about seeing this star (ἰδόντες δὲ τὸν ἀστέρα) that had guided them.  Obviously, this was a religious miracle star, not some ordinary star.  The magi had completed their task.