Challenged from the Start: Bethlehem to the Wilderness

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Challenged from the Start:  Bethlehem to the Wilderness

This morning’s sermon challenged us to rethink the first stages in the life of Jesus from the Gospel according to Matthew. Here’s a summary of Matthew 1-4:

1) Jesus is born in squalor and scandal; 2) Jesus’ birth so disturbs Herod the Great that he attempts an assassination of Jesus by massacre; 3) To escape Herod, Jesus and his parents become refugees in Eqypt; 4) Jesus is baptized by his cousin John, a wilderness prophet strongly critical of the religious establishment who would later be beheaded; 5) Jesus encounters and overcomes the trials of the Tempter in a cruel wilderness experience.

What does it mean that God chose this particular time and place for the birth of Jesus?
What do the stories of Matt. 1-4 mean to the modern church and contemporary followers of Jesus?
Are we too concerned with respectability and propriety – and not enough with the poor, the outcast, the lost?
Have we allowed our culture and church to so soften the story of Jesus that we have lost a realistic sense of its transforming power?