Bible commentator William Hendriksen, while expressing some sympathy for artistic representations of biblical scenes, rightly asks if some images of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) give the correct impression.
Take, as an example, ‘Good Tidings’ by the artist William Plockhurst:-
‘The sheep are huddled together in some kind of pen. Right near them are a few shepherds. Leaning against one of these sturdy men is the faithful shepherd’s dog.…
Ian Paul has commented on the thoughts of David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, about the distinctive needs of occasional church attenders (i.e. those who might attend an annual carol service, but not much else).
In addition to some sensible, if unremarkable, suggestions (stick to traditional words of carols, mention other events coming up in your calendar, and so on) David Walker offers the following advice:-
Ian Paul rightly asks, Why? Why is it really not a good idea to preach a sermon at a carol service? …
At Christmas, fact and fiction, truth and legend, are mixed so thoroughly that even preachers include what they should have left out, and leave out what they should have included.
The late Dick France wrote:-
Steve Matthew has six ‘thou shalt nots’ in connection with preaching from the Bible’s nativity accounts. I summarise:-
Don’t skip the genealogy in Matthew 1. Even a person with a fairly limited knowledge of the Old Testament will find that many of the names fairly leap off the page: men and woman, saints and sinners, Jews and Gentiles.
To the seasonally tongue-tied among us, Donald Whitney suggests that the following could get a meaningful conversation going in almost any Christmas situation. It will be noticed that the later questions in the list would help in moving the conversation to a deeper level:-
What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
With regard to the identity of the ‘star of Bethlehem’ (Luke 2), scholars have canvassed various options.
1. Some regard the entire story as fictional – a tale weaved out of various strands of Scripture from the Old Testament. The strongest argument in favour of such scepticism is the movement of the ‘star’ as described in the biblical text. Clearly, if we can give a plausible explanation for the behaviour of the star, we raise the index of confidence in the historicity of the event.…
How does ‘main-stream’ critical scholarship deal with the biblical narratives of the birth of Jesus?
What follows is based on this article by Helen K. Bond, senior lecturer in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen.
First, Bond notes that only Matthew and Luke record Jesus’ birth, and their stories are quite different. Only Matthew has a star, wise men, King Herod, and the slaughter of infants around Bethlehem. And only Luke has a census, a stable, angels, and shepherds [except that Luke does not have a stable, although he does have a manger!]
Both accounts, according to Bond, are highly theological. …