Sometimes it takes an outsider to speak to a closed system.
The leaders in a corrupt system close the doors to outsiders and consolidate their power. Such was the condition down in Jerusalem. It is interesting to note that Jesus and most of His disciples were outsiders, residents of the northern part of Israel, the region of Galilee. The prophet Isaiah called it, “Galilee of the Gentiles.” By the time of the Jesus Story, Galilee was populated mostly by Jews. Also, far removed from the stratified social structure of Jerusalem, a large middle class of merchants, craftsmen, including a thriving fishing industry, developed in Galilee. This was exceptional in the Roman culture of the day. As a craftsman, Joseph fit right in in the Nazareth community.
The People Who Walked in Darkness have seen a Great Light.
The Great Light that would eventually bring the power and presence of God to Jerusalem was Jesus Himself. He would come out of the north and bring the truth to the south, an outsider, the Messenger of the Covenant who suddenly came to the Temple. The faithful remnant in that closed, corrupt system to the south will delight in Jesus while the entrenched power brokers will rage against Him. Gentiles were not the only ones walking in darkness!
Out of Egypt; Back to Israel
Joseph’s dreams continued to play a major role in the Jesus Story. When wicked King Herod died, Joseph was informed of this by an angel in a dream and brought his family back to Israel. However, Herod’s replacement was also dangerous so in another angelic dream Joseph is warned of the danger. He turned aside to Galilee, settling in the village of Nazareth in the southern region of Galilee. Fathers today can imagine the joy Joseph took in raising this Boy who was both the Son of God and of Mary. If Jesus’ first word was as it often is today, the Hebrew equivalent of “Dadda,”—probably, “Abba”—Joseph was the recipient of the greeting. Mothers today, can imagine the joy of Mary holding Jesus in her arms, seeing His first smile while looking into her face, and knowing before any of us did, His warm touch. These things happened in Nazareth.
The Synagogue in Nazareth
The hometown meeting place in the village of Nazareth will figure large in the Jesus story. It was here, as well as in the home of Joseph and Mary, Jesus memorized the scriptures that spoke of Messiah. He played with the neighborhood children. Surely He was the delight of His teachers. He learned Joseph’s craft by his side in the carpenter’s shop and he learned proper business practices in the community. In other words, Jesus, far removed from an elitist system in Jerusalem, learned the truths of real life, work and worship in the real world. In this, we identify with Him. He truly was one of us, living a world not unlike ours: family, local worship and education, work and personal responsibility.
What a blessing that “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts.
Lord Jesus, You came to this earth to be one of us. Even in the selection of Your hometown, You chose to live outside of the power structures. You learned life as a boy in school and church just like us. You learned the value of work and honesty in business. You learned real life in a real world. Help me tell Your real story in my real world. Lord, I too, am an outsider in this world. People walk in darkness all around me; help me bring Your light to them. For Your glory, Lord. Amen.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
1. O come, O come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.
2. O come, O Wisdom from on high, who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show and teach us in its ways to go.
3. O come, O come, great Lord of might, who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law in cloud and majesty and awe.
4. O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem, unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.
5. O come, O Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road and bar the way to death’s abode.
6. O come, O Bright and Morning Star, and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night and turn our darkness into light.
7. O come, O King of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved