But odd manger ornaments aside, my Bible reading this morning was from Matthew 1-2–the “Christmas story”. Once through the name list of chapter one, I settled in for the familiar flow of events. Along the way, I noted a couple things that I’d not thought before…
- This story DOES NOT happen without divinely inspired dreams. No less than four key points in the story does a God-given dream direct decisions and choices. I’d love to swim into the HOW and the WHY of this fact and its relation to our lives today… but I don’t know how. So for the moment, I leave it as a simple observation.
- When I read 2:2, where the foreign wise men ask Herod about the newborn king of the Jews, I thought to myself, “Man, Herod must have hated that question… and been taken aback by its very asking.” The very next verse? “King Herod was deeply disturbed.” Yes, I suppose he was. Signs are being read, and people are traveling across the known world in search of a king that you have no desire to meet. In fact, so strong is your wish to stay upon your own throne that you’d not hesitate to execute all other comers. Somewhere in there is a powerful image of the spiritual struggle, the inner battle of conversion, to step aside and to back down in acceptance of another’s lordship. Somewhere along the path, every believer has to taste of Herod’s disturbance. Perhaps some view submission to God with a pure-hearted joy. But my soul relates better to the battle of wills that goes on inside. Sure, there is joy over Jesus as Lord. But a shallow, selfish side still wails at times. It sees the star and knows that something grander than “getting my way” is at work in the universe. It even observes wise people pursuing this way in powerful and inspiring ways. And then it wrestles through the disturbance of the news that the throne is not intended for me. That’s a part of the never-ending conversion story.
- The star–it likely didn’t look like the Christmas card images. On those, next to stars of dust in the sky, it’s the size of house, flying through the air, ready to crush whatever it falls on. But the star in the story required careful eying. The magi tracked it, while most others seemed to look right past it. There’s no record of a star-led crowd of onlookers. Just a few. Even Herod’s own “wise men” hadn’t tuned into it, despite their knowledge of the Hebrew prophecies about a Messiah being born in Bethlehem. Apparently, one can miss God’s work in the world, even when it’s only mere miles down the road. But those who are tuned in, they can see it across deserts and borders–and they will trek tirelessly to get in on it as observers and participants. But one has to be bent on looking for it.
With those things in mind, I look out my window to see green grass and blue skies on a morning when I biked to work! Merry Christmas indeed.