Monday, December 22, 2014

An Incarnation Bathed In Blood and Sorrow

In much of the world it is the Christmas season and it is generally considered to be "the most wonderful time of the year". I won't wax poetic here about how we have taken an event full of love, humility and self-denial and turned it into an orgy of consumerism and empty religious ritual. Instead I was thinking last night of a rarely mentioned event that occurs in the midst of the "Christmas story".

We all love the account in Luke with the shepherds abiding in the field and the Christ Child in a manger. Away in a Manger, Silent Night, etc., it is an account that lends itself to lovely music and Christmas cards. When we look to the account in the 2nd chapter of Matthew we see another event occurring. This event, known as the Massacre or Slaughter of the Innocents, revolves around the arrival of the wise men from the East who ran into Herod and tipped him off to the birth of the Christ. Herod tried to trick the wise men into revealing the identity of the Christ but the intervention of a dream warned the wise men and they slipped away without telling Herod the identity of his infant adversary.

Herod, as vicious a man as has ever lived, was "troubled" by the coming of a legitimate ruler who would become the King of the Jews. The thought of one who would usurp the pretender Herod was so disturbing that he ordered an response that is horrifying to imagine.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

            “A voice was heard in Ramah,
                        weeping and loud lamentation,
            Rachel weeping for her children;
                        she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

(Matthew 2:16-18)

The coming of Christ was a terrifying event for the rulers and powerful and religious elite of the day, from the moment of His birth to the empty tomb, so much so that they were willing to kill children and crucify the innocent. Is this the Jesus you know?

Jesus was not just some wise teacher or a radical revolutionary or a political figurehead or any of the other false narratives that people have ascribed to His earthly ministry. He was not the founder of the Tea Party and He was not a union agitator for farm workers. He was God with a capital "G" coming into the world in a tabernacle of flesh and He was and still is the greatest threat to worldly powers of all kinds: political, economic and religious. When we reduce Jesus into a political cause ("How dare you say Happy Holidays! This is 'Murica!") or take the offense of God's righteous judgment of sin out of the cross it makes little sense to read of the slaughtering of children in a vain attempt to stop Christ.

In our contemporary religious setting we talk so much about Jesus and yet seem to know so little of Him. Our ignorance of Christ, our co-opting of the Gospel, our neutering of the atonement, all are a far greater threat than consumerism during the Christmas season or the eliminating of Christmas pageants in Caesar's schools. I don't care much about putting Christ back in Christmas, I am more concerned with getting Christ back into the church.

1 comment:

Aussie John said...

So on target again.

If I understand you correctly,I have one small difference of opinion regarding your last sentence.
I'm not entering into a semantics game here, I respect your writing too much for that, but I think our use of terms is becoming a real problem in the church scene.

Christ is always in His Church,His Body and will never leave it.

I have no doubt that many traditional groups have for many years, although calling themselves "church" ceased to truly acknowledge the ownership of the Lord Jesus Christ.