DR. PHILLIP BRASSFIELD
I love news. I’m sort of a junkie I suppose. I mean when I go home I usually get at least two or three newscasts.
One of my favorite ways to get the information I crave is to listen to interviews, to hear “it” from the proverbial “horse’s mouth”. When you do, you tend to get the details without all the political agenda, just the facts. Interviews can be news themselves. News people often measure greatness in their field based on the interesting, unusual, or hard to get interviews they have conducted.
I love the Gospels (Gospel means ‘good news’ by the way), each for its own reason. The Gospels that give us the beginning of the story of Jesus Christ particularly, the Nativity story, are told to us by Matthew and Luke. Matthew gives us the general account which includes some fascinating details about the wise men coming from the east. He tells us the details of their having seen a star rising in the east (BTW I strongly recommend “The Star of Bethlehem” DVD and website which explains with amazing clarity the date and details associated with the Star), to them a sign that a king would be born in Judea. Most likely this was the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Venus creating an amazing spectacle in the heavens. He tells us of their visit to King Herod and of the diabolical plan devised by Herod to Mind the Christ Child and kill Him.
But I especially love Luke’s account at the beginning of his Gospel. Scholars have generally credited Luke as being a first rate Historian. And being a Historian is kind of like being an investigative reporter. Did you know that the Gospel of Luke was essentially composed following a collection of interviews? These interviews were most likely given during the two year imprisonment of the Apostle Paul (Luke’s companion) who was imprisoned in Caesarea along the Israeli Mediterranean Coast. Luke says to his reader in Luke chapter 1:1:
In as much as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, v2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, v3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, v4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
If it had been published today, Luke would have had the attention of the World, maybe won a Pulitzer Prize! Can you imagine the long list of interviews he landed over a two-year period from firsthand accounts and eyewitness interviews regarding the life of Jesus? So, You might think of Luke’s Gospel in this way, as a sort of documentary with interviews and dramatizations that tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry.
Luke most likely used the Gospel of Mark as a guideline for his own investigation. Mark’s Gospel was already published and available. Mark, it is believed, received his information principally from Peter the Apostle who certainly would have had first hand information regarding the ministry of Jesus, but has nothing to say about the birth of Jesus. Peter had met Jesus some 30 years after his birth, as it was also with Matthew and John. So we can only surmise that when Luke wanted to include the details of Jesus’ birth he had to investigate. He needed a relevant source, to conduct an interview with someone who would have known how and what had happened and still been alive, someone who was there, like Mary.
When I have taught the first couple of chapters of Luke to students over the years, I have always considered them to be the Mary memoirs. Who but Mary would have known the story of John the Baptist’s conception and birth? And the story is told highlighting Mary’s own participation in the event. Who but she would have all the private details of the miracle of her own conception? A song of praise she sang to the Lord is even recorded in the text. Who but Mary would have understood Joseph’s reaction, struggle and been privy to his Angelic confirmation? Only she would have known the details about their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, of the Shepherds’ wonder and the Angels’ proclamation and the fact that there was no room available for them in the hotels of Bethlehem. Only she would have had first hand knowledge of Jesus’ Circumcision and naming, of the prophecy of Anna, the reaction of Simeon and the humble sacrifice she and Joseph offered after the “days of her purification”.
The next time you read the Christmas Story from Luke, remember, it is Mary’s story that you are reading. The one told during an interview conducted by a young Greek Doctor turned Investigative Reporter turned Historian, who preserved for all of us the wonderful story of the first Christmas as told by “Momma” herself!