The long slow decline of religion in America has produced much hand wringing among Christians. Oddly enough, the very religion that bears Jesus' name has often built the biggest barriers to him and the life he promised.
Jesus makes it clear that emotional authenticity is the basis on which we build our spiritual relationship with God, because God knows our true identity inside and out. Jesus invites each of us to enter into this kind of integrated life.
It is difficult to sense the passion behind his words and deeds when reading the black and white texts in the Bible. But the Jesus we meet in the four Gospels is a man of sorrows, but also a man of joy.
A chronological New Testament is different from and yet the same as the New Testament familiar to Christians. It contains the same 27 documents, but sequences them in the chronological order in which they were written.
If we emphasize Jesus' death, cut out from the whole tapestry of his life, we reduce his crucifixion to perverse ritual rather than a direct consequence of his confrontation with the powers of his day.
Christians have a habit of trying to harmonize the discrepancies found in the Bible. Yet this practice contributes to stripping the Bible of what makes it interesting, and what can make it speak powerfully.
While theories vary on who the "historical" Jesus really was, there's general agreement that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. So why was it so important for the gospel writers to claim Bethlehem as Jesus' birthplace?