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Miscellaneous Thoughts

This year I have opted to use the IBRA Words for Today Bible notes words for today.gifas the basis for my daily devotional reading.  Each year I choose a different 'stable' (IBRA/SU/BRF etc) because by the end of the year I feel I have grown too used to the style of a particular set of writers and editors and need a change.

Already the newness of this series is getting my mind working - which is good.  A series on the opening of Luke's gospel has inspired me to think more deeply about the backgrounds of Jesus and John the Baptist than ever before - and all because someone drew attention to words I've read times without number.  The writer observed that John the Baptist was from a middle class family whilst Jesus was from a working class background.  I guess what struck me was the former of these - even though I've always known Zechariah was of priestly descent I'd never paused to think about it.

John was born into a religious family, part of a long line of religious professionals, which may have made his nazarite status less odd than it sometimes appears.  He would have been steeped in the law and experienced first hand the realities of cleanliness laws.  I began to ponder more about his hidden early life.  His parents were already old when he was born, how much longer did they live?  Was he alone by the time he was 12? 20? 30?  Is it any wonder, with elderly parents who quite probably died while he was still young, that he went off to live in the wilderness in some kind of nomadic, hermit existence?  What was his life really like?  Did he and Jesus ever meet at family gatherings (how close were Mary and Elizabeth anyway?)?  And so on.

I was also struck by the difference between the probable life of Elizabeth and that of her 'kinswoman' Mary.  Like so many families in our time, one branch is financially comfortable whilst another is not, one branch are stalwarts of religious establishment, another, whilst seemingly devout, is not.  In Mary and Elizabeth the bizarre contrasts of normal family life are played out - different generations whose children are the same age (it struck me when reading my Christmas cards this year that I have friends who are grandparents and friends whose children are toddlers and all points between); comparative wealth, education and opportunity for one whilst another lives a simple, peasant life.  And yet the God who turns things upside down appoints John as forerunner for Jesus.

It's making me ponder... and that's got to be good.  I am looking forward to working with these notes this year - even though by the end of it I'll be ready for another change I suspect.

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