In Those Days

We love sentimentality, especially at Christmas time. 

Syrupy movies with bad acting. 

Teach the world to sing.

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by

That’s a lie.

The cattle are lowing
The Baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I very much doubt it.

It came to pass in those days…

What were those days really like?

·      Israel-Palestine was occupied.

·      Caesar Augustus was on the throne.

·      His name was Gaius Octavius.

·      His great uncle was Julius Caesar.

·      Augustus is a title indicating that he was a son of the gods.

·      Everyone was required to worship him as divine lord.

·      He was an absolute despot who ruled by terror.

·      At the slightest hint of protest, Roman troops swept into town, randomly rounded up a bunch of innocent people and crucified all of them on a high hill nearby. 

·      There was no freedom. Everyone had been bludgeoned into submission.

·      Poverty and oppression reigned.

·      Judaism was corrupt. Its leaders were rich off the backs of the ordinary. 

·      The Temple was a den of thieves. 

·      Racism was prominent – Jews, Samaritans, and Romans, all hated each other.

·      Women were property to be used, abused, and discarded at will.

·      Unwanted children were left outside in the elements to die.

·      A father could order his wife or children killed.

·      There was no social safety net. Widows, orphans, and the disabled begged or starved. 

·      Life was brutal, unjust, and short. 

Into that world God came.

Not as a conquering king, but as an infant.

Completely helpless and dependent. 

The infant son of a poor teenage Jewish mother, displaced from home.

No generational wealth; no advantages.

No room in the kataluma, the caravansary.

Outside everything.

Perhaps in a cave or grotto, no one knows for sure.

Dirt, filth, poverty, exposure.

Hailed by shepherds. Being a shepherd was the lowest, most despised job you could have. Shepherds are dirty.

At the age of eight days, he’ll be circumcised.

Pagan astrologers from Persia will visit and adore.

Soon, because of this birth, all the baby boys in the region will be brutally ripped from their mothers’ arms and slaughtered.

Inconsolable wails will fill the air.

The baby’s parents will flee to Egypt with him – displaced refugees. 

We don’t much like this kind of Messiah, this kind of God.

What kind of Messiah is this?

What kind of God is this?

We don’t want a God who forgives, turns the other cheek, eschews violence, includes women, embraces children, who proclaims good news to the poor, freedom to the incarcerated, recovery of sight to the blind, sets the oppressed free, and proclaims YHWH’s favor.

“True worship of God consists quite simply in doing God’s will, but this sort of worship has never been to people’s taste.” – Søren Kierkegaard

No, we want a warlord, a conqueror, a king who will crush our enemies, marginalize those with different opinions and beliefs, put minorities in their place, make us victorious, powerful, and wealthy. 

What’s all this nonsense about denying self, washing feet, serving others? We all know where that stuff leads – rejection, death, Golgotha. 

Ah, but also Easter.

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on December 23, 2022, in Bible, Jesus, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, Life Coaching, Peace Shalom Hesed, social justice, Spiritual Direction, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Such good points!

    Like

  2. Those pagan astrologers had the record of Daniel, passed-down reverently by the “wise men” whom Daniel saved. He could have said to Nebuchadnezzar, Since I and my prayer helpers moved God to show you your dream, the rest of these guys are frauds. After all, those guys had laid wait to see Daniel pray, and Daniel ended up in a lion’s den. They had told on the 3 Hebrew friends of Daniel, and those boys ended up in a burning furnace.
    But Daniel interceded with Nebuchadnezzar, Since I have shown you the dream and its interpretation, do not slay the wise men of Babylon.
    And many generations later, a few of their progeny went to great expense and risked grave danger to seek the King of the Hebrews, of whom Daniel prophesied.
    Pagan? Maybe, but not in a bad way. I’d put them in the line of faith, along with Daniel, because they believed Daniel.
    Astrologers? Well, they followed a star, but the Lord gave the stars for signs, way back in the beginning. Those were righteous men who sought far away from Babylon and it’s God’s; sought for the righteous God and for the King of the Jews.
    I marvel that they brought a burial spice. Did they understand Daniel, that Messiah would be cut off? God spoke to them exactly as He spoke to Joseph, in a dream, and they didn’t pass it off as last night’s pizza. They recognized the voice of God. That’s better than I do, and they obeyed!
    And we’re the shepherds dirty? As in, unclean? Yet they kept the flock of ritually clean beasts used in temple sacrifices to atone for sin.
    I know you aren’t disparaging the faithful Gentiles nor the joyful shepherds, seeing as God honored them. Surely they aren’t included in the evils of those days!

    Like

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