Saturday, December 26, 2009
Hope you had a great holidays. I am sharing a message like I usually do, but this one is maybe not as universal in its application as I usually try to be, please forgive me.
In a Christmas story that we don't really see on Christmas cards, or in cute Christmas cartoons we see the violent reality of our world. Herod (official title: King of the Jews) is approached by astrologers from Iraq (enough to make some American Christians a bit nervous) who say they are looking for the one born the king of the Jews. An interesting note is that all of Jerusalem hears about this, and the priests actually tell the astrologers and Herod where to find the Messiah. Yet these priests and holy men don't go themselves! The upper echelon of religious power is quite often more involved in upholding their power and approval with the state than seeking true worship. But these gentile, astrologers do go to worship.
This is not my point or message though.
What happens next is the bit rarely talked about. The astrologers betray Herod and do not reveal the location of the one born king of the Jews. And the one inserted as king of the Jews makes a shocking decision. He decided to kill every child up to two years old in the region of Jesus birth. This is called the murder of the holy innocents.
The king sees in Jesus not a cute little baby in a manger. The king sees a threat to the entire power structure of his world. If this child is the king of the Jews, then what does that make him? What will his future be? What will the future of his children be? And like most power, he feels it is in the best interest of Rome, and Jerusalem to take out this new born king.
I have a few points. The first is to dispel this idea that we see brilliantly lampooned in the legend of Ricky Bobby. The cute little 8 lb 7 ounce baby Jesus in the manger. The baby born all those years ago makes us feel warm and fuzzy as most babies do. We like the idea of God loving us, and a fragile, non threatening, non demanding baby being the image of God's love. But the king understood what we may not: This is no normal baby. This baby is dangerous, revolutionary, and will upset everything. Life as usual will not be possible. But rather than trying to kill the baby, we have a new tact, we try to keep him a baby. Just forget the rest. We in all reality take the baby who is non threatening, and skip straight to the cross, where though grown up, this baby now is dying and again not threatening. God now dies for all our sins, and we can be forgiven and go to heaven. Yet we forget all the stuff in the middle, hard stuff. Stuff that really makes our kingdom of me uncomfortable. Like love your enemies, you cannot serve God and money, and forgive those that sin against you.
My second point is this, power will do whatever it takes to stay in power. In this case even the priests were willing to team up with the secular authorities to eliminate the threat to their own little place of power. Jesus tells us of a new kingdom where the king is on the bottom, where power is meant to be shared not fought for, where those that are least empowered, are exalted.
And my last point...
whether you choose to accept Jesus as Lord, or a moral teacher, or a character in a morality tale, you must deal with the ugliness of mankind, as well as the beauty of the story. This narrative does not just speak of "spiritual truths" but deals with the very essence of who we are as people. The very best of humanity, and the very worst are all represented here. And if we do not see it all, I do not think we really see any of it.
peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind