December 6, 2011

Advent Evangelism

It's Christmas time. So, I've been spending a fair bit of time reading the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. As I was taking a look at Luke's account of the angelic appearance to the shepherds near Bethlehem, something occurred to me that before had not. Take a look at Luke 2:17. After the sheep herders go to see the child spoken of by the angels, Luke says that "they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child." After they heard the good news about the birth of Jesus, and after they encountered him just as they had been told, their response was to begin spreading the news. They told others what they had heard and seen. I didn't expect to find the evangelistic imperative in the birth narratives, but the more I think about it, the more it makes a great deal of sense. Evangelism is at the heart of Advent. A couple of things in this text jump out at me.

First, the shepherds didn't mess with the message. They are said to have made known that which was said to them. They are courriers for the message, not the authors of the message. Likewise, when we engage in the ministry of evangelism, we are courriers of the message. We are not responsible for altering the gospel; we must simply share what we have heard. Indeed, if we were to alter the good news, it would no longer be the good news; it would be some other news. Like those shepherds, we must make known what we've heard.

Second, Luke reports that all who heard their message were filled with wondrous awe. This reminds us that Jesus is not boring. He comes into the world as the God-man on a rescue mission. He comes with good news for the poor and the marginalized. He comes to offer new life and abundant life. He comes to make new creation. He comes to make his blessing known. And if we are to be faithful, then we should tell the story in a way that evokes amazement, wonder, and awe. If we don't, we may not have the story straight.

The birth of Christ the Savior is good news. And we see in the shepherds that an appropriate response to receiving that news is to spread that news. We may not always think of it this way, but Advent should motivate among us a passionate evangelistic zeal that evokes a response of amazement from those who hear.

8 comments:

ἐκκλησία said...

It's an intriguing post you've presented Matt, and in interesting line of reasoning.

Look immediately after your first Luke reference ([Luke 2:17]) at [Luke 2:33] and [Luke 2:38] where roles other than evangelist respond to Christ's birth. After the instance of evangelism (by the shepherds) that you've pointed out there were no less than two instance of prophetic response to His birth (in which the significance of His birth was explained). Both of these instances reflect personal (but still revealed) insight and are not case of simply repeating the 'Good News'.

Assuming you've only focused your attention on the role of evangelist in looking at these Christmas stories, what you say about evangelism is true, that 'evangelists' are to proclaim the 'Good News' as they've received it exactly. As we see this same principle cannot be said of the other roles - namely apostle (ἀπόστολος), prophet (προφήτης), pastor (ποιμήν), or teacher (διδάσκαλος), as evident in the two instance of prophecy that follow, where inspiration of the Holy Spirit was involved.

Thus, since evangelists aren't the only response to Christ's birth, it would be interesting to continue pursuing your line of reasoning with some of the other roles.

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt, on another note, are you following the controversy between Norman Geisler, Albert Mohler and Michael Licona?

It's a pity how (some) Christians treat (other) Christians.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Thanks for your comment and for raising some avenues for further consideration. When my helps others develop further thoughts, I feel like it is accomplishing its purpose.

With regard to Mohler et al, I've read Mohler's criticism of Licona's reading of the mysterious resurrections at the time of Jesus' death. Is that the controversy to which you refer? If so, I wasn't aware that Geisler was involved. Do you have a link to a site that sums up their debate?

As always, thanks for reading.

ἐκκλησία said...

Yes - that's it; all rather silly really.
Mike Licona writes, what is perhaps the most important defence of the historicity of Christ's death and resurrection, and Geisler and Mohler take issue with one paragraph (in 700 pages) which ponders the textual nature and meaning of [Matt 27:52-53]. (Licona's reflection may be subject to (mild) criticism, but given the strength (and purpose) of his other 699 or so pages (and even any of his other work), he should be given some slack. He was forced to resign from the Southern Evangelical Seminary (in part by Mohler's influence).

Additional Links:
*Licona's Response to Geisler
*Credo House Blog Entry
*Another Blog Entry

ἐκκλησία said...

I would add - in all of this, Licona has exhibited nothing less than Christ-like grace (to his credit).

Matt O'Reilly said...

Thanks for the links. I find this whole controversy to be misguided and unfortunate. Licona is not denying the truthfulness of the passage in question; he is simply stating what he think it truthfully means. Licona's question is not whether the text is truthful but whether it is history or apocalyptic symbolism. It is true history or true symbolism? Mohler and Geisler are not arguing for the inerrancy of the text but for the inerrancy of their their particular interpretation of the text. It seems to me that Licona can argue that the text is both inerrant and apocalyptic symbolic. I'm amazed that scholars like Mohler and Geisler have missed this and have made such a big deal out a small portion of a huge book. I thought about writing about this when I first heard of it. I didn't realize that Licona had lost these positions. Perhaps I'll write about it now.

ἐκκλησία said...

It's a legitimate question, as you point out - whether it was meant (by the author) as history or apocalyptic symbolism. (Geisler himself sees Genesis as 'not historical' for example).

When personal interpretation is mistaken for scripture, and interpretation is viewed as inerrant, that is the folly that turns evangelicals into new Pharisees.

I hope you do post about this.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Look for it tomorrow.