Category Archives: Meditations

Meditations derived from Gardening Genesis

Were you born in a barn?

When I was a young girl, my cousin reprimanded me for something I did by asking, “were you born in a barn?”  The question was an insult at best. Nonetheless, Jesus was born in a barn.

Most Christians believe that Jesus was born in a stable. At other times, pictures of his birthplace show a cave set apart from the town of Bethlehem. Very likely, these ideas about Jesus’ birth place aren’t completely accurate.

Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus ordered that a census be taken of the entire Roman world. A part of the order required that all adult men go the place they were born. Joseph lived and worked in Nazareth when he married Mary, the mother of Jesus. But, Joseph was from the tribe of Judah; his ancestors from the area of Bethlehem. To fulfill the Emperor’s edict, Joseph had to return to Bethlehem.

  Joseph left Nazareth along with Mary and traveled to Bethlehem. Most art depicting Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem show Mary on the back of a donkey. The Bible identified that Joseph and Mary were very poor (Luke 2:24). Conceivably, Joseph couldn’t afford a donkey for his wife to ride. Mary may have walked from Nazareth, Galilee to Bethlehem, Juda

How far Mary was into her nine-month pregnancy when Joseph and Mary made this trip, isn’t identified in the Bible. Pictures show Mary in about her eighth-month of pregnancy; however, these pictures could be inaccurate. It is unlikely that Joseph would wait that late in his wife’s pregnancy to start a long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Conceivably, Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem in the 5th – 7th month of pregnancy.

 When Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, he would have gone first to his family home to stay with kinfolks. Perhaps, one or both of his parents were still alive. More than likely, one of his brothers lived in Bethlehem. Unfortunately, for Mary and Joseph there was no room for them in any home of Joseph’s kin. Possibly, several families returned to Bethlehem for the census. Relatives living in Bethlehem had no space for another couple. The Bethlehem inns were filled. Joseph and Mary couldn’t rent an inn room or even space on the inn floor.

Joseph and Mary may have stayed in a family member’s barn. In first century Judah, it was common for men to bring valued animals into the bottom floor of their home overnight to keep animals safe. This bottom floor functioned as a barn with family living space on the floor above. To understand this barn and home arrangement, think of the Middle Age crofters in Scotland.

 The bottom level of the home, the part reserved for animals, was rough, likely with a dirt floor. Its door may have been sufficient to keep the animals in the barn, but, did little to protect occupants from wind or rain. Most of these barns wouldn’t have had many, if any, divisions for individual animals such as we think of horse stables having stalls. Mary wrapped Jesus in cloths and placed him in a manger (Luke 2:7). The manger was a better place for a newborn babe than the dirty floor with animal excreta.

Unmarried Pregnancy

“Mom, I’m pregnant.” Mary said to her mother.

Astonished, Mary’s mother responded, “Mary, you know that you and Joseph shouldn’t have had sex until you were married. What were you thinking?”

“Mom,” Mary replied, “The baby isn’t Joseph’s.”

Mary’s mother looked at her daughter, trying to process what possibly could have happened. “Oh, Mary, were you raped by one of those awful Roman soldiers?”

“No, Mom. I never had sex with anyone. The father is God.” Mary replied.

Can you imagine a conversation such as this one in a small house in Nazareth? Yet, it could have been the conversation between Mary and her mother. During it, Mary tried to convince her mother that she was carrying a baby who God fathered. Repeatedly, Mary stated with conviction what she believed was fact. She wouldn’t be swayed. We don’t know if Mary ever convinced her mother that her pregnancy was from the Spirit of God; however, Mary’s father was told of Mary’s pregnancy.

Mary’s father had to take the news to Joseph, Mary’s betrothed. Joseph denied that he was the father of Mary’s child. Mary’s father told Joseph exactly what Mary told her mother. Probably, neither man believed Mary’s statement that the Spirit of God got her pregnant. Joseph determined to set Mary aside quietly so that she wouldn’t be stoned for adultery. However, God intervened. Joseph had a dream in which an angel told him to marry Mary. When Joseph woke, he took Mary home to be his wife; but, had no sexual intercourse with her until after Mary’s son was born (Matthew 1:20-25).

 The next several events were affirming to Mary. Joseph took her (his wife) with him to Bethlehem. Shepherds told a story of a heavenly host announcing the birth of the infant to them. In the temple, both Simeon and Anna identified baby Jesus as Messiah. Important astronomers came to Bethlehem to worship the young child. These wise men brought gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, for the child. The Bible noted several places that Mary remembered these events and pondered them in her heart. Ponder means to contemplate, deliberate, or think over. Being a teen-ager, I bet Mary also concluded: “Good! I have been justified. Now, Joseph won’t think that I betrayed him with another man.”

 God told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt, so they would be safe from King Herod’s wrath.  Several years later, Joseph’s family left Egypt; but, rather than return to Judea, they traveled north and settled in Nazareth. Resettling in Nazareth was hard for Mary. Her reputation as a virtuous woman was profoundly compromised in the Nazareth community. Anything Mary said to influence others that her pregnancy was a supernatural event or that her son was the promised Messiah was met with an eye roll and the equivalent of “Yeah, right.” Mary and even Joseph had a difficult life in this small insular town.

Copyright 12, 28, 2020: Carolyn Roth

Christmastide scripture

Collect for Christmas Day:7 “O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he come to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”  

­­­                Epistle Reading –  Hebrews 1:1-9 NIV: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.  For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?  And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.” But about the Son he says, Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

Gospel Reading – Luke 2:1-20 NIV: In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


What Happen on Christmas?

In the Children’s Sermon at Christmas, Pastor Mark asked the children “What is going to happen at Christmas?” A child responded, “Baby Jesus is coming down the chimney.” Well …. he was half correct.

Christmas has several names to include Christmastide, the Christmas season, the Nativity, and Twelvetide. Although individuals in westernized countries often equate Christmas with December 25, Christmas is a season in the liturgical calendar of most Christian churches. The season of Christmas begins at sunset on December 24 and ends at sunset on January 5, thus, lasting 12 days. The Advent season precedes the Christmas season and the Epiphany season follows it. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, that is, when God became human (incarnate) in the person of Mary’s son, Jesus.

The basis for the feast of Jesus’ birth (Christmas) is the infancy stories in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. In chapter 1 of his gospel, Matthew outlined the human genealogy of Jesus and the announcement of the birth of Jesus to both Mary and Joseph. In chapter 2, he recorded the visit of the wise men to the Holy Family and their flight to Egypt. Chapters 1 and 2 of the gospel of Luke provides information about the angel, Gabriel, announcing the birth of Jesus to his mother and include events surrounding Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem.

Not until the third century after Jesus’ death did Christians begin to celebrate December 25 as his birthday; but, by the fourth century, celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 spread throughout the church. Almost-universal celebrations included singing carols, feasting, giving gifts, time away from jobs, and attending church services

With the Protestant Reformation, Christmas as a celebratory time changed. The most significant changes occurred in England and north-eastern United States. Many Protestant reformers rejected Christmas. Particularly, English Puritans were hostile to Christmas celebrations and tried to suppress them. During the brief Calvinist reign in England, parliament forbade the celebration of Christmas. In America, Christmas was outlawed or criminalized in Puritan states, i.e., until the 1830s anyone in Massachusetts who missed school or work on December 25th was subject to a fine. With the exception of Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans, religious and even secular Christmas celebrations were rare in colonial United States.

In contemporary United States, some church denominations orient members away from ostentations Christmas gaiety to the original purpose of Christmas as the time of Jesus’ birth. Currently, in the United State there is controversy on whether or not to wish others a “Merry Christmas.” When American wish each other a Merry Christmas, mostly we mean “have a happy day and dinner.”  Originally, Merry Christmas has a different meaning. Traditionally, “Merry” meant “peaceful or blessed” rather than a jocular, gay, or happy. Merry is an adjective for heavenly serenity, not earthly mirth.

Reflection: Where do you put your focus and energies during Christmas time? As you happy with how your energy is spent. Do you anticipate making any changes?

Advent Reflection from a Clergy

As I write this, I am mindful that we begin the season of Advent this Sunday, December 3rd.  I don’t think I fully understood the significance of this liturgical season until one Advent Sunday, some 23 years ago.  It was a gray, cold, bone chilling morning in Chicago, but I was warmed by the beauty of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church with its Gothic architecture, flawless stone carvings, candles casting light into dark corners with dancing flames, while the Skinner organ accompanying the Men & Boys Choir, led the congregation in a mournful yet robust singing of “Come, oh Come Emmanuel.”   I was the Celebrant that morning, and processed down the aisle behind the Thurifer, Crucifer, Torch Bearers, twenty or so choir members, and several acolytes.  I was fully vested in several layers of robes, complete with a magnificent purple chasuble, and great with child, my being seven months pregnant.  The historical events of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, recounted during Advent, from the Annunciation to the waiting for the birth of her child, connected me to Mary in a way that I had not experienced before.

Following the service, I was approached by a new comer, who tearfully told me that she was Roman Catholic, and that she began weeping when she saw me coming down the aisle, a pregnant priest in a chasuble  She explained that she had only seen male priests leading worship, and that she had been waiting for half a century to see a female priest at the altar, and a pregnant one was beyond her imagination.  We talked as Mothers, about that experience of being ‘great with child”, knowing that something mysterious and wonderful was growing within us, and waiting patiently and hopefully to see the face of our child.  We both understood that Advent and pregnancy are seasons when we practice waiting, when we are invited to savor our present state of being, when trust, patience, hope, fears, longings, and anticipation are emotions as well as experiences that teach and refine us both in Advent and in pregnancy.

The root of the word savor comes from the Latin word saporem which means to taste and is also the root of sapient which is the word for wisdom. I have discovered, that when I give myself over to the experience of savoring, wisdom emerges. Savoring calls for a kind of surrender, of letting go of my usual way of being; savoring calls me to taste slowness: I can’t savor quickly.  Savoring calls me to taste essentials: I can’t savor everything at once.  Savoring calls me to taste mindfulness: I can’t savor without being fully present.  Savoring is a practice of enjoying the waiting.

Waiting has never been easy; it can be a heavy burden, or boring, or anxiety producing, and our culture has little respect for the value of waiting, as we have come to expect fast food, Amazon prime, instant downloads, snapchat and text messages.  We are conditioned to want immediate action, responses, and results.  The liturgical season of Advent is a counter-cultural opportunity to practice waiting, preparing, savoring, and hopeful anticipation.  I often wonder, is there value in honoring Advent, as stores are stuffed with Christmas items prior to Halloween, Christmas tunes tinkle over the radio on Black Friday, and the bell ringers at the red Salvation Army kettles wish me a “Merry Christmas!”  I turn into a Grinch and say, “Advent Blessings.”

In spite of feeling like a salmon swimming upstream in the cultural river of consumerism, self-gratification, and the pattern of avoiding the dark parts of life with copious colored lights and tinsel glittering 24/7, I think there is a missed opportunity for spiritual growth, when we do not fully immerse ourselves in Advent.  To prepare and wait, stretches us and makes the awaited celebration of the birth of the Christ child, even more joyful.  Without fasting, feasting may become only gluttony.  As we fall prey to never-ending celebrations, we lose some of the thrill and jubilation that comes with the ending of a long wait, an anticipated arrival, a longed-for promise of our Savior.  Our human experience is made up of sorrow & Joy, fasting & feasting, lament & praise, and to skip the one, diminishes the richness of other.

I encourage you this Advent season, as I do each year, to intentionally savor these four weeks of preparing and waiting, by choosing some spiritual practices that will take you deeper into the darkness of the night, away from artificial light, so you might see the gift of the star light and moon shadow.  The long-suffering waiting of the birth of Jesus, like any baby, serves to heighten the wonder, amazement, and joyful celebration when the waiting is over, the Savior has arrived, and we can see the glory of God, in the face of the promised one.  Advent Blessings,  SEB+
The Rev. Susan E. Bentley
St. James Episcopal Church
4515 Delray St. NW
Roanoke, Virginia 24012
(540) 366-4157


Advent Visit

During her pregnancy, Mary visited Elizabeth:

Gospel Reading –  Luke 1:39-56 NIV: At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Reflection: I’ve never been pregnant but many of you who are reading this have been. Can you imagine the mother of God visiting you during your pregnancy?

Layperson View of Advent

As a child growing up in Texas, I attended a non-liturgical church. My family and I were there every time the church doors were open. I became well versed in the Bible and was baptized. Looking back at my childhood church, it reminds me of   Texas’ seasons – not much changed throughout the year. But, then I began dating my future husband. He belonged to a liturgical church. What a difference! Banners, vestments, and altar cloths kept changing throughout the year. I experienced church seasons for the first time.

God had a great plan for the world before he laid its foundation. God determined to give his only Son to be the savior of the world. The first season in the church year is Advent, a season of waiting. In Advent, we look to the past and long for the future; it is a season of hope in the season of winter.

Like the Jewish people before us who waited for hundreds of years for Messiah to come, we look back to Christ’s first coming and forward to his second coming. By faith we can say with Simeon at Messiah’s first visit to the Temple, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in t he presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32 ESV).

By faith we believe with Paul about Christ’s second advent, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ESV).

In nature, seasons occur in the same sequence year-after-year, i.e., winter, spring, summer, and fall. Although these four seasons have the same names, each year they are different. Not every fall is spectacularly gorgeous. Some winters are warm, while some springs are chilly. Thus, it is with the church calendar. The same cycle of seasons occurs year-after-year beginning the Advent; yet, the church seasons seem to change when, it is we who change.

Shortly after Dale and I got married, I constructed an Advent wreath for our new home and invited my mother for dinner. I was so proud of my home, my creativity, and my cooking. Almost immediately after my mother arrived, she pulled me aside and said, “Ann, that wreath is beautiful, but wouldn’t it be better to have red and green candles rather than that blue and pink?”

 Written by Ann Wolfer, St. John Lutheran Church, Roanoke, Virginia.

Why an Advent Wreath?

Why an Advent Wreath?

The symbolism of Advent is light. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. At his second coming, all mankind will be enlightened, i.e., know that Jesus, the Christ, is the Son of God. He will be the center and light of the new earth. Jesus gives light to each of us as he lives in our person. At his birth, the light of night stars shined in the sky over Bethlehem. The Magi following the light of a star from Persia to Bethlehem. Advent is four weeks of delightful anticipation as we wait to celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem.

                Often, Christians express basic tenets of faith in symbols. In Christian churches the Advent wreath is the primary symbol of light during the four Sundays of Advent. An Advent wreath is made from evergreens shaped into a circle to signify eternal (never ending) life. Evergreens tree branches used as the base of the candle can be the spruce, holly, laurel, cypress, and pine, or any mix of these branches. Evergreen boughs, rather than deciduous tree branches which drop leaves and appear dead in winter months, are used to symbolize that Jesus is alive eternally and that we are alive eternally in Jesus.

Advent Wreath

Four candles are spaced equidistant around the evergreen wreath. Traditionally, three of these candles are blue or purple to match the liturgical colors. The other candle is rose-colored. Various churches and denominations have assigned meaning to the four candles. Generally, a blue candle is lit the first Sunday of Advent. This candle is labeled the candle of Prophecy because God’s prophets foretold both the coming of a baby and the judge of the world. On the second Sunday of Advent, a second blue candle is lit. This candle is labeled the candle of Preparation. This candle symbolizes that we must prepare, even change, some parts of our lives to welcome the coming Jesus.

The third Sunday of Advent is named Gaudete Sunday. On this Sunday, the rose candle is lit. In Latin, gaudete means “rejoice” and is the first word of the traditional prayer “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4 NIV). The faithful rejoice because they have arrived at the midpoint of Advent. From this point onward, congregates are joyful over the anticipated birth of Jesus at Bethlehem. In some churches, altar colors and ministers’ vestments are rose colored on Gaudete Sunday.

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the final blue candle is lit. It is identified as the candle of Love. We remember that God loved humankind so much that he planned for Jesus to be born as a fully-human baby. Saint John described Jesus’ light and love this way, “In him (Christ) was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4 NIV). “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16 NIV).

Several traditions have evolved around the Advent candle. One is that each of the four candles represents 1,000 years, the sum of the years from Adam and Eve until Jesus’ birth. Another tradition is that the progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope that surrounds Jesus’ first coming into the world and the anticipation of his second coming to judge the living and the dead. A modern-day adaption of the Advent wreath is a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath. Often this candle is broader (greater diameter) than the four weekly candles. It is lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning to represent Jesus’ birth. To further enhance its beauty, the Advent wreath can be decorated with pine cones and cinnamon (or cassia) sticks.

Although the Advent Wreath is a symbol of waiting for Jesus’ first birth, the history of the Advent Wreath was pre-Christian northern Europe. People sought to hasten the sun’s return in the darker times of the year (at the winter solstice) by lighting candles and fires. In Scandinavian countries where night reined during winter months, lighted candles were placed around a wheel. People prayed to the god of light to turn the wheel of earth so that light was restored, and days became warmer.

By 1500, both Catholics and Lutherans integrated Advent Candles (fire and light) into traditional preparation for Christmas. Often these traditions focused on Jesus’ birth rather than his second coming. To Christians of the Middle Ages, Jesus, the Light of the World, came to dispel the darkness of sin. By the beginning of the 19th century, on most Advent wreaths three candles were blue (purple) and one a rose color.

Copyright 11/17/2020, Carolyn Adams Roth

Come Long Expected Jesus

Beginning the 3rd week in Advent our energy changes from looking forward to Christ’s second coming to focusing on the birth of Jesus as a baby. Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus written by Charles Wesley sums up our feelings as we wait for Jesus’ birth with joy. At the same time, Wesley provided sound doctrine on the purpose and value of this long-expected birth.

 Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

 Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Advent Surprise???

In the Old Testament, God fore-told the advent of his son. Although many prophets wrote about events that mankind could watch for which would herald the birth and life of Messiah, Isaiah wrote more about Messiah than any other prophet. Isaiah prophesied during the latter half of the eighth century before the birth of Jesus, yet, his predictions about Jesus were amazingly accurate. Below are eight of Isaiah’s prophecies and how Jesus full-filled them in his life. Mathematically, the odds of an individual fulfilling eight prophecies are one in 100 trillion.

                Isaiah wrote that the coming Messiah would be born of a young virgin woman and Jesus would be called Immanuel which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9-6). Jesus was born from a virgin, Mary of Nazareth (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-35). In ancient times, names had meaning. Calling a child Immanuel identified that in the child, God was with mankind (Luke 1:35).

                Both Isaiah and Malachi wrote that before Jesus began his public ministry, a messenger would announce its start (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). Often, in the Bible a messenger was an angel; but, in this instance the messenger was John the Baptist. Two gospel writers, Matthew and John, recorded that prior to the start of Jesus’ public ministry, John the Baptist preached and baptized in the wilderness of Judea and on the east side of the Jordan River (Matthew 3:1-3; John 1:23-28).

                Isaiah prophesizd that the Spirit of God would rest upon Jesus (Isaiah 11:2). This prophecy was full-filled when Jesus was baptized by John (Matthew 3:16-17). The Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove and landed on Jesus. A voice from heaven declared that Jesus was God’s son. Isaiah wrote that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was on his son (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus himself identified that he full-filled this Isaiah-prophecy when he read Isaiah’s writing in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:21).

                Isaiah wrote that the coming Messiah’s ministry would honor Galilee and cause its people to see a great light (Isaiah 9:1-2). The province of Galilee was an outback region of the Roman Empire, where little happened of any note in the first century. Yet, Galilee was the region where Jesus spent most of his life. Likely, in the 21st century westernized individuals only know of first century Galilee because Jesus taught there. Thus, Isaiah’s prophecy was accurate.

                According to Isaiah, the Messiah’s ministry would include miracles, such as giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, a fluent, clear tongue to individuals who stammered or were mute, and the lame individual would leap like a deer (Isaiah 32:3-4; Isaiah 35:5-6). Jesus cured the blind, deaf, dumb/mute, and the lame (Matthew 9:2-8; Matthew 9:28-32).

The eighth prophecy that Isaiah gave about the Messiah was that when he spoke listeners would hear, but, not understand what the Messiah said (Isaiah 6:9-10). Although Jesus didn’t begin his ministry speaking in parables (see Matthew chapters 5–7), after a time he taught almost exclusively in parables to full-fill prophecy, i.e., hard-hearted listeners wouldn’t understand him (Matthew 13:14-15; John 12:38-41).

                Reflection: Should Messiah’s birth and behaviors have been a surprise to the Jews?