Theology, Thoughts & Coffee

Reading and Class Schedule:

Amy-Jill Levine, Light of the World: A Beginner's Guide to Advent

  • November 15: Introduction, pp. 9-20
  • November 22: Chapter 1, The Meaning of Memory, pp. 21-52
  • November 29: No Class (Thanksgiving Weekend)
  • December 6: Chapter 2, The Promise of Potential, pp. 53-80
  • December 13: Chapter 3, The Journey to Joy, pp. 81-110
  • December 20: Chapter 4, The Gifts of the Gentiles, pp. 111-140

For Zoom information, please contact Dr. John Franke.

Chapter 1 - The Meaning of Memory

Downloadable pdf

Luke 1:5-25, 57-79 (Luke 1:26-56 is the text for chapter 2)

“Knowing the when and where of Jesus is essential for understanding him.” When the Gospel writers mention names, dates, and places they are alerting us to pay attention because these details are rich with meaning.

The mention of King Herod is not a happy start to the story. He was a ruthless leader who killed his sons, his wife, her brother and mother, and in his dying days ordered the execution of one member from every family in order that the whole nation should mourn.

“His building projects still stand as a testimony to his reign; to see the buildings without knowing the history behind them is insufficient. Any story set in the reign of King Herod is a story of political intrigue and of threats to life.”
While Herod holds the throne, Zechariah and Elizabeth are the focus of the story and tell us that “to understand Jesus requires an understanding of Jewish history. More, Luke is telling gentile converts: this history of Israel is now part of your history as well. It is part of your story.”

The annunciation in the Jerusalem Temple is rooted in the history and memory of Israel and Luke reminds readers that they have seen this story before and are about to hear it again with a new couple, at a new time, and with a new message.

The Angel proclaims good news to Zechariah of an impending birth, however his doubt has consequences and he is “unable to speak until the day when these things happen.”

Elizabeth recognizes that her pregnancy is a gift from God that connects her with the matriarchs of Israel. The birth of her son and the story of how he came to bear that name invites us to consider the meaning of our own names and the memories they are intended honor and preserve.

Zechariah’s song highlights (again) the connections between ancient Israel and the biblical tradition. “Jews knew that God was always ready, and eager, to forgive anyone who repents. They also knew that repentance required correction.”