Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Love, Murder and Stinky Shepherds

The Christmas story has circled around my head for the past few days. Sure, it's been reimagined quite differently as each year added on to my life brings forth a new experience and glimpse and perspective of Love coming down in the form of a baby.

Sometimes I think I forget that while Jesus was no more than than age 2, King Herod had thousands of babies killed at this same time in hopes of killing off Jesus. This is a part of the Christmas story yet it's not one we like to dwell on. We moreso tend to view this as Herod's choice and so, God is merely playing off of what Herod is choosing to do. But the prophets in the Old Testament speak clearly and because of this, it's often hard for me to imagine or rather accpet that this killing of babies act was necessary for Christ to be move away from Bethleham and carry out his Kindgom ministry elsewhere. I find it hard to talk of the love of God and the vastness and deepness and wideness I believe it so encompasses when I think of babies being murdered...and taken from their families all for the preservation of the present coming King. Did these babies have to die in order for Jesus to live? Was this part of the OT prophecy (the killing of innocent babies)?

I'm reading a book right now that mentions this very subject, and the author questions this very aspect of God's love...wondering if it's something we really really need and want or something we simply give lip service to yet never fully try or attempt to understand. I love to think of the prodigal son when thinking of God's love, or Rahab's peculiar and complicated ethical actions that carried her faith to the cross. I also love thinking of Ruth who has become such an icon of obedience for me, and thinking of God's love for the last, lost, one sheep...struggling within the thicket. God's love is attractive in these situations. It's something I want to be a part of and to embrace and consume and digest. However, how was God's love present when He hardened Pharoh's heart into not letting Moses' (or God's) people go? This is one of the many problematic Bible stories where it seems like God is playing a really cruel trick: he scolds someone for evil, yet, He's the one supposedly responsible for hardening this person's evil heart. Why? To carry out love? If you have trouble reading what I'm writing go ahead and reread the Exodus story and see how God is portrayed by the writers.

I never want to not account for the incomprehensible minds of the writers of the OT and NT for they too were like you and me, and were not God and so could not possibly know what God thinks. Perhaps this is part of the mystery of knowing God and I shouldn't be concerned with knowing why b/c in reality, the only one to really know the answer to such a 'why' question would be God in the first place. I don't know. But it is pretty fascinating to think that the Christmas story, with all of its baby killing, stinky shepherd flock-gazing, and unlove and ungrace toward Mary and Joseph' entire immaculate conception dillemma, is still capable of capturing the thoughts of millions and the minds of Americans and the hearts of children. Coming out of so much pain and hatred and murder, you'd think the birth of Jesus wouldn't be as Hallmark-friendly as consumer America makes it out to be. But I guess a nativity scene complete with Herod and his bloodthirsty expression for Jesus-the-babe to be killed, and wise men that were not yet there, and shepherds who stunk, and Mary's uncertain expression of questioning whether or not this really is the Son of God she is holding in her arms, would not sell here in America. Love void of pain is what we want and that's what we've been getting for far too long I'm afraid.

And sadly, I wonder how much and how often I've settled for something of the same.

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