Wednesday, December 21, 2011

For those who may not know

Dr. Scot McKnight is blogging on Spirituality According to Paul. Here's the link to his fourth post: Paul’s Spiritual Vision 4

I'm grateful to God for Scot's generous review of my work. And, I think he's raising some good points for discussion.

As I've mentioned before, Scot's blog, Jesus Creed, is one of the few blogs I read every day (another is by Mark Roberts:

What makes the Jesus Creed blog so unique is the gracious manner in which he engages a variety of topics--it especially shows up in the comments section. Here's a first-class NT scholar dialoguing with all kinds of posters, engaging arguments in a non-threatening way. Honestly, sometimes I marvel over his patience--especially when a poster takes advantage of Scot's graciousness by dismissing substantive dialogue with nonchalence. All kinds of voices show up at this "round table," and I've found many of Scot's posters to be very insightful. Imagine, a blog where persons don't shout past one another but actually talk to each other with respect and dignity. Is this what some people mean by "virtual Church"?

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Bloody Christmas
There are so many add-ons to the Christmas story, it's hard to tell what's real and what's make-believe. I'm not talking about Santa, Frosty, or Rudolf. Rather, I'm referring to the ways we have spiced up the story of Jesus' birth, as if it were a rather boring story without our embellishments.
Of course, there are the obvious fictive parts that everyone recognizes, like there was no drummer boy, talking donkey, or even "three kings" from the orient. Other additions sneak in without our noticing: there was no stable, no inn keeper, no angels singing (they chant), no magi visiting the baby in the manger (every year, when my wife would bring out the nativity scenes, my children would hear their father rattle on and on about how "wrong" the ideallic scene really is). But, what really bothers me are the parts we ignore, especially Matthew's version of the Christmas story, where he relates the story of how Joseph and Mary became refugees because a paranoid King ordered genocide for Bethlehem.
I've never seen that scene recreated during a Christmas play. Can you imagine? Herodian soldiers enter stage right, bearing swords, and slaughtering all the two-years on the Bethlehem stage. Parents would shriek in horror, "Don't look, Johnny. I don't know what they're trying to do up there. Never seen the like."
But, there it is in Matthew's story. In all of its glory. And, we turn our eyes away from the tragedy because everyone knows Christmas is about warm feelings, nostalgic recollections, and serenity in the midst of chaos (often a chaos of our own creation).
And yet, somehow I find myself drawn to Matthew's story. Not because I have some peculiar desire for dwelling on the macabre realities of life. No, somehow I find hope knowing that, even when Jesus was born, there were people in Bethlehem screaming, "Where is God?" Rachel mourning for her children.
Mary probably grieved over the news down in Egypt. After all, these women were a part of their little community; friends who shared stories and daily chores. Their children played together. Such news may have even compelled Mary to ask the same question in the face of such human suffering, "God, where are you?"
He's a vulnerable baby, hiding out in Egypt, waiting for a wicked king to die.
For some reason, I love that part of the story that nobody tells.