As you may have realized, over the past few weeks the scripture passages used on Sunday morning and at our Christmas Eve service have come from the first chapter (or two) of either Matthew, Luke, or John—telling us the “back story” about Jesus’ life. Matthew and Luke contain background information about Jesus’ earthly family and God’s intervention in their lives, and tell us not only the birth narrative, but also about the first people who encounter the babe—the shepherds and Simeon and Anna in Luke, and the Magi in Matthew. Similarly, John gives us the “back story” about who Jesus REALLY is—the Word of God made flesh.
Mark, however, is different. In his brusque, “just the facts, ma’am” fashion, he opens his Gospel with these words: “the beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God”—and then jumps right into a (very) brief retelling of the first story we have of Jesus as an adult—his baptism.
As I tell the children, we shouldn’t be surprised to find differences in each of the Gospels. Each book was written by different people for different purposes. Taken together, though, their function is greater than what they accomplish alone—giving us a fuller, more complete picture not only of who Jesus is, but also of God’s great love for us—the promised Savior, the newborn King, the Word made flesh, is God’s own Son sent not to condemn the world, but sent so that the world (and we) might be saved through him! (John 3:16-17)