Monthly Bible Study last night, on the Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke, which were printed out in parallel columns. Quite tense at times: some people become uncomfortable when questions are raised about whether it really matters if we can identify Bethlehem as the exact place of Jesus’ birth, or whether it is actually true that Joseph was obliged to go there to be registered, rather than be registered in Nazareth, in accordance with what seems to have been normal Roman practice.
It’s a heavy responsibility to appear to cast doubt on what some think of as historical supports for their faith, but the stories can be made incomparably richer if we read them in the light of the evangelists’ strategic aims: to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. These aims are realised with different emphases: Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses, Luke as the heir of David.
Anyone care to share experience of striking the right balance between encouraging people to cast out into the deep and comforting and affirming those who want to hug the shore?