Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent REflection #21: Matthew 2, The Rest of the Story

The nativity story usually stops with "the night that Christ was born ....."  The wise men show up, supposedly, and it's one big happy worship party.  This is not what Matthew records, but Matthew's narrative does not make for a good tableau, so we pretty much ignore it.  However, it's an important and interest read.

My first thought is that the heart of the king is in the hand of the LORD, as Proverbs states, but that doesn't justify the great evil political leaders can do.  I have written about this elsewhere, but Christianity was apolitical for the first 300 years, and we should maintain a healthy skepticism of all things political.  Herod is not the first or the last to use sincere religious seekers and finders for his own evil purposes.  Individuals may pursue politics, as did Daniel and some New Testament characters who apparently worked for Rome, but not the body of Christ as a whole.  The last forty years of American history has been a chronicle of that deviation.

My second thought is that in v. 3 it says, "When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."  Now, why were they troubled?  Because Herod the tyrant was troubled, and that meant everyone got to share in his disturbance (or be victims of it) or because they had heard all about the star, the shepherds, the angels, the birth, the prophecies and were sitting and waiting to see what happened next?  If the first, they  had reason to be, as the rest of the narrative of his genocide shows.  If the second, that means they were somewhat complicit.  Sometimes the subjects of a king (or presidents) get what they deserve, or at least their leadership reflects them.

Need I say that the Magi showed up quite a while after the birth, since it says in verse 11 that they came into a house and saw the young Child (not Babe, as previously called).  I think Rembrandt painted this.  (Rembrandt was known to paint Bible stories as they really were, not as tradition said.)  But how strong tradition is!  Most people have nativities or creches that totally ignore the truth.  I do myself.

Fourth, dreams and angels figure here as well; Joseph clearly does not know what to do without constant divine help, but who would?  I have to wonder how many times our sleep dreams could mean something.  Old people talk often of having dreams of loved ones before they die.  My dreams are wild and bizarre, mostly because I have a mind that runs superfast all over the past..  If I could learn to reflect and stay on task better, I might know that my dreams are telling me something.  Not, of course spiritual direction, but spiritual need.

We probably ignore this story because it's about the genocide of inconvenient children.  HUMMMMM.  Where do we see that nowadays?

But Herod dies and the family is able to return to Israel, but not as they had planned.  I am so reminded of how I want to have my life my way, on my terms, and how I don't.  So little has turned out as I would have planned; even as I think back over the last year so much happened and was asked of me that I would not have expected.  Yet I hold on to my comfort, my stuff, my furniture, my house, my job.  MY, MY, MY.  And I miss many blessings.

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Attention, Ego, Spirituality, and Drugs

This title may seem really odd coming from me, but this article has some interesting things to say.