In my undergrad studies, I was an English literature major. Our primary work was to read texts and analyze them. Setting aside the emergence of post-modern criticism, the primary work of the analysis is to understand the author’s point in writing the book. Texts are written in a culture, language, context and for an audience all of which can be very different than what exists today. It is quite possible that you can think you understand a book while missing it’s primary purpose.
Here is an example from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland:
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
What is the character Alice speaking about in this paragraph? Her desire to live in a world of lunacy? Maybe she yearns for a drug trip of some kind? Or maybe it’s just the words of a young woman in a fantastical story in which everything is upside down. It is quite possible that you can think you understand this story while missing it’s primary purpose.
Lewis Carol was the pen name for Charles Dodgson, a mathematician. During his professional life, symbolic algebra and projective geometry were attracting attention. Dodgson disdained the new mathematics and wrote Alice and Wonderland as satire exploring a world where this new math was operative. This knowledge of Dodgson’s views on math and Alice in Wonderland written as satire, opens up the book in ways that one could never imagine.
In the biblical text we call this work of understanding the author’s intent “exegesis”. It is the work of not just understanding the words but also context, audience and the intent of the author. It is quite possible that you can think you understand a passage of scripture while missing it’s primary purpose.
As we near Christmas, I wanted to see if we might find an exegetical insight that might open up the Christmas story in a new way. In John 1:18, John tells us that Jesus has made God known. The Greek word for known is, exēgēsato. The word means to exegete, fully describe or to tell fully. In the birth of Jesus, we can gain insight into the nature of God. Over the next few days with Jesus-revealing-God as the exegetical key, I’m going to share some reflections on the birth of Jesus.
The Hidden God
The setting of Jesus’s birth is a manger in Bethlehem. At the moment of Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem is not a place of importance. It is not Rome, Athens or Alexandria. It was an occupied territory filled with marginalized people. It is in this town that Jesus was born.
In relation to Rome, Bethlehem is hidden. It seems that God doesn’t mind this at all. He goes out of His way to enter into the world obscurely. He seems to hide himself in Bethlehem as real life happens all around him.
Here’s a Christmas lesson you probably never heard: You can live your “real life” and miss the most important person in the cosmos.
This reveals who God is. God is the kind of person you must be looking for to find him. Jesus reveals that God won’t force himself into your life. He happily exists and waits. He waits like a babe in a manger. He is quite available if you want to see him but hidden if you want to focus on other things.
1)Are you looking for the Lord or are you distracted by other things?
2)What is one way you could “look for God”?