Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Nativity

Christmas 2009

Each day from now until Christmas day one article will be devoted to a subject connected to Christmas. Today we take a look at the nativity.


The Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels and in various apocryphall texts.
The remembrance and re-enactment of the Nativity in the Christian celebration of Christmas
s signifies their belief that Jesus is the "Christ" or Messiah promised by the Old Testament. The main religious celebration among members of the Catholic Church and other Christian groups is the Church service at midnight on Christmas Eve or on the morning of Christmas Day. During the forty days leading up to Christmas, the Eastern Orthodox Church practices the Nativity Fast, while the majority of Christian congregations (including the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, many Mainline churches, and Baptists) begin observing the liturgical season of Advent four Sundays before Christmas—both are seen as times of spiritual cleansing, recollection and renewal to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

The New Testament provides two accounts of the birth of Jesus: one in the Gospel of Matthew and the other in the Gospel of Luke, while other early nativity accounts, namely Justin Martyr's and that of the Protevangelium of James, appear to harmonize them. The birth narratives of Matthew and Luke have some elements in common. They both relate that Jesus of Nazareth was the child of Mary who was betrothed to Joseph, a descendant of the Biblical King David. The narratives also present the conception, preceded by an angelic annunciation, not as the result of marital relations, but of the power of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, the Gospel of John is silent on the nativity, as is the Gospel of Mark, which most textual critics consider the earliest of the canonical gospels. Some scholars see the Gospel accounts as different, conflicting narratives, and they consider them to be pious fictions. E. P. Sanders describes them as "the clearest cases of invention in the Gospels." Other scholars defend the historicity of the birth narratives, noting the distinct perspectives of the Evangelists.

Gospel of Luke

In the account of the Gospel of Luke, Mary learns from the angel Gabriell that she will conceive and bear a child called Jesus. When she asks how this can be, since she is a virgin, he tells her that the Holy Spirit would "come upon her" and that "nothing will be impossible with God". She responds: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word".
At the time that Mary is due to give birth, she and her husband Joseph travel from their home in Nazareth about 150 kilometres (90 miles) south to Joseph's ancestral home in Bethlehem to register in the census of Quirinius. Having found no place for themselves in the inn, when Mary gives birth to Jesus she places the newborn in a manger (feeding trough).
An angel of the Lord visits the shepherds guarding their flocks in nearby fields and brings them "good news of great joy": "to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord." The angel tells them they will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. The angel is joined by a "heavenly host" who say "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!". The shepherds hurry to the manger in Bethlehem where they find Jesus with Mary and Joseph. They repeat what they have been told by the angel, and then return to their flocks. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to be circumcised, before returning to their home in Nazareth.

Gospel of Matthew

In the Gospel of Matthew, the impending birth is announced to Joseph in a dream, in which he is instructed to name the child Jesus. A star reveals the birth of Jesus to a number (traditionally three) of magoi (magi, Greek μάγος, commonly translated as "wise man" but in this context probably meaning "astronomer" or "astrologer") who travel to Jerusalem from an unspecified country "in the east".

Herod understands the phrase "King of the Jews" as a reference to the Messiah, since he asked his advisers where the Messiah was to be born. They answer Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David, and quote the prophet Micah: "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage,
" a deceitful Herod tells the magi.
As the magi travel to Bethlehem, the star "goes before" them and leads them to a house where they find and adore Jesus. They present Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In a dream, the magi receive a divine warning of Herod's intent to kill the child, whom he sees as a rival. Consequently, they return to their own country without telling Herod the result of their mission. An angel tells Joseph to flee with his family to Egypt. Meanwhile, Herod orders that all male children of Bethlehem under the age of two be killed, the so-called "Massacre of the Innocents".
After Herod's death, the family return from Egypt, but, instead of going back to live in Bethlehem, fears concerning Herod's Judean successor Archelaus cause them to move to Galilee and settle in Nazareth, fulfilling, according to the author, a prophecy: "He will be called a Nazorean". The Greek for this last word is Ναζωραιος.
The prophecy is primarily sourced from Judges 13:5, 7, which say, "the boy shall be a Nazirite"; this last word in the Codex Alexandrinus being Ναζειραιος, from the Hebrew נזיר [Nazir]. The author of Matthew explained the move to Nazareth as the fulfilment of the prophecy ὅτι Ναζωραἳος κληθἠσεται, "for he will be called a Nazorean." Menken believes he did this by changing one vowel, such that Ναζιραιος (Judg 13:5 in the Greek biblical text) was read as Ναζωραιος (Mt 2:23), which was an accepted exegetical procedure of his time. In Judg 13:5 the verb is ἔσται, "he will be a Nazirite (Ναζιραιος)", while in Mt 2:23 the verb is κληθἠσεται, "he will be called a Nazorean (Ναζωραιος)". Menken believes that the verb is derived from Isaiah
7:14, which interested Matthew as a prophecy of Jesus' birth and is parallel to Judg 13:5, 7.
"Others have speculated that the use of Ναζωραιος relates to the Hebrew term נצר [netzer], ie "branch," and its use in Is 11:1: "A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots" - a prediction that a new ruler would emerge from the line of Jesse, father of David. However, at the time Matthew was written, there was no tradition
of transliterating rather than translating נצר, as this view requires; it is not very probable that the work's audience would have recognized the author's technique.

The Nativity as myth

Raymond Brown argues that the Gospels present two very different accounts: the Gospel of Matthew relates the appearance of an angel, in a dream, to Joseph; the wise men from the east; the massacre of the innocents; and the flight to Egypt. The Gospel of Luke mentions none of these but describes the conception and birth of Jesus; the appearance of an angel to Mary; the worldwide census; the birth in a manger, and the choir of angels; none of these is mentioned in Matthew. Brown also emphasizes the contradictions between the accounts, which explain the birth in Bethlehem in different ways (Luke says they lived in Nazareth and only moved to Bethlehem briefly for the census, Matthew implies that they lived in Bethlehem and only moved to Nazareth on their return from Egypt); give two different genealogies of Jesus, and appear to use a contradictory time frame (Matthew's account places the birth during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC, but Luke dates it to the census of Quirinius ten years after Herod's death).
Following Brown, some such as Geza Vermes see the nativity stories either as completely fictional accounts, or at least constructed from historical traditions which predate the Gospels. Brown, for instance, who observes that "it is unlikely that either account is completely historical", suggests that the account in Matthew is based on an earlier narrative patterned on traditions about the birth of Moses.

Today's Smile

Looking Back - Queen's Christmas Speech Leaked

On this day in 1992, a national newspaper published the Queen's Christmas speech two days ahead of schedule sparking a full investigation from the BBC into the unprecedented leak.
Buckingham Palace denounced as '"very regrettable" the publication of the Queen's traditional annual speech in the Sun newspaper ahead of its broadcast on the BBC.
It signalled a clampdown on the future advance availability of the speech to the world's press and warned other media organisations against reporting information from the newspaper.
The publication, spread across the centre pages of the newspaper, is virtually word-for-word the text of the five-minute broadcast, recorded at Sandringham.
There are some suggestions the broadcast may have been picked up by a satellite TV enthusiast who then passed it to the Sun. Others point to a BBC mole.
A total of 120 audio and video copies of the broadcast was distributed the previous day by satellite to media organisations.
The publication embargo spells out the radio broadcast should not be before 0900 GMT on Christmas Day and the television broadcast not before 1500.
Palace aides regard the broadcast as crown copyright and its advance publication may be interpreted as a breach of that.
But the Sun's assistant news editor Leaf Kalfayan said the paper came by the story by "good, old-fashioned techniques".
It had not broken any embargoes and had obtained the information by legal means.
The BBC said it viewed the leak with 'concern' and hoped it would not mar the sense of occasion engendered by the Queen's broadcast.
A spokesman said the tapes were distributed yesterday and by 1700 GMT up to 40 UK broadcasters had received copies.
This year's message has been eagerly awaited after the Queen witnessed the break-up of the marriages of her sons, Andrew and Charles, Princess Anne's divorce and a fire at Windsor Castle.
The Queen has also had to endure the publication of Andrew Morton's controversial book on the Princess of Wales and yield to demands she should pay income tax.

The source of the leak has never been found.
The Queen described her "sombre year" with the now infamous phrase "annus horribilis".
Many aspects of the broadcast were subsequently changed with the venue switching from Sandringham to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, and many media outlets not receiving the text of the address until late on Christmas Eve.
Buckingham Palace also ended the BBC's monopoly on the rights to produce the speech, to share it with Independent Television News (ITN) on a rotating basis.
It was widely interpreted as a deliberate snub to the BBC in retaliation for its Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales in November 1995

Who Am I?

Another Who Am I? for you to try and solve. Study the 10 clues below and see if you can work out the name of our mystery celebrity.

01 I was born 10 February 1981.
02 My place of birth was Brighton.
03 I was educated at Burgess Hill School For Girls, West Sussex.
04 I am married to TV producer Dan Baldwin.
05 I was married at Amberley Castle on 4 August 2007.
06 Fearne Cotton and Sarah Cawood were two of my bridesmaids and Dermot O'Leary was an usher.
07 I used to present Ministry of Mayhem for children's TV.
08 At the age of 14 I was a model in teen magazines and went on to model underwear for Pretty Polly.
09 In 2006 I won a BAFTA in recognition of my capabilities as a children's TV presenter.
10 I now appear on a popular daytime television programme.

Well, do you know who it is? Answer in tomorrow's Journal.

Under 25 Drivers

Ok, Officer. It's a fair cop!