Advent – there’s resistance

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 the region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.         Matthew 2:16-17

"Massacre of the Innocents" Giotto, from the Scrovegni Chapel, 1305

“Massacre of the Innocents” Giotto, from the Scrovegni Chapel, 1305

Herod executes all the boys he can find, trying to stamp out the competition for Kings of the Jews. There were probably only a couple dozen, and this sort of thing may not have even made Herod’s top ten, but still…   How do piles of infant bodies fit in the Christmas story?  Does it make for good reading round the tree?

And yet, there it is, this gruesome account along with all the rest. The point? It’s that when God arrived into the world, to establish his kingdom and save his people from their sins, he was resisted.

He was resisted by Herod, a cruel, petty, puppet-king. And if we’re most honest, he can be resisted by us. Jesus was born not to remain cute baby Jesus. He was born to make a way for us to come to God through the plan of salvation he made.  How often is that resisted?

Jesus came to be King of the world. How often is his rule resisted, mocked, or sidelined?

Jesus came to be our Lord, the one who commands and we follow.  Do we ever want his gifts while refusing his demands?

Jesus came to shower us with the grace of God – the forgiveness of all our sins.  How often would we rather hang on to guilt rather than let him cleanse us?

If the Gospels tell us anything, it’s that it does not end well for those who resist Jesus’ arrival.  It doesn’t end well for Herod or his second rate sons (both also named Herod).  But we who believe are invited to always be laying down our resistance to God in Jesus. And when we surrender, we win.

Advent – Born With Purpose (born to die)

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people for their sins.”       Matthew 1:20-21

 

Eric Drooker, crying baby

Eric Drooker, crying baby

Reflect on the birth of Jesus and some things easily emerge.  That while he most certainly had a normal birth, his conception was not normal. Virgins don’t normally become pregnant.  It’s impossible, actually.  To the skeptic who asserts “Virgins can’t give birth to babies!”, the Christian replies “we know, that’s kind of why it’s a big deal”.

But even as the amazing circumstances of his birth are being recorded, the end of his life is not far from view.  Matthew records that at the giving of his name, from the angel to Joseph, the very purpose of his coming is revealed.  Jesus means saviour. In greek and hebrew it reads the same as Joshua, recalling a figure who brought God’s people from where they were to where they needed to be. And in that name is embedded the purpose of his birth – to bring again God’s people out from where they are. Specifically, it is to save them from their sins.

Even prior to his birth, the purpose of that birth is revealed to his adoptive father. Salvation from sins through his death on the cross. The Gospel writers were never just rolling along without the entire story in sight. Even at before the cradle the cross was in sight.

Advent – God touches the dirty ground

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.         Luke 2:6-7

Sigmund Abeles, crying baby, 1964

Sigmund Abeles, crying baby, 1964

Familiar words to many, they may even conjure sentimental images in our minds of baby Jesus laying no cozy hay, no crying he makes. Notwithstanding the traditional carol, the baby almost certainly did cry. And that is a great point to be made about the birth of Jesus – which is, the coming of God into the world.  The eternal, ineffable, untouchable, transcendent, unsearchable God entered as a human baby. And a very human baby he was.

It the story gets to familiar for us we’ll forget just how amazing this is. And just how scandalous it was for ancient Greeks and how it still is for our Muslim friends. How can God – who is so far above and beyond us – wear diapers and lay in the hay?

But that is exactly what is at the heart of Advent, Christmas, and the Gospel hope. That God has come  and put his clean feet on the dirty ground, so to speak. He of course does it to rescue his people. Becoming as human as we are, gives him the avenue to become saviour to human beings. It is also God’s great approval of this world, a great acting out of his first assessment of the world he made.

The world is ‘very good’ indeed. And God has loved it so much that he has entered it, diapers and all.