I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. For me it is a joyous season to celebrate my Savior’s birth. I know Christmas has been misdated, infused with pagan rituals, and commercialized to a disgusting extent, but it still the Most Wonderful Time…Of the Year! We had a great sermon this morning from one of our out-of-town Elders (and a Pastor in his own right). Not surprisingly the sermon was on the birth of Christ. And whether you are a believer or not (and if in that case you assume there is still some truth to the story), it is hard to deny that this occurred under very strange (and in some ways remarkably similar to today’s) circumstances.
Judea (aka Israel aka Palestine) at the time was a downtrodden, faithless nation (the people, the land, and the leaders as the man who prayed today put it, though referring mainly to the US), run by usurpers (both Rome and the Idumean dynasty of Herod, if not also the Pharisees and Sadducees), loathing of justice, marred by fear, and lost in despair. This is somewhat understandable given what the Jews had been through, but according to the Bible, was still a result of their own actions (ungratefulness, idolatry, arrogance, forgetfulness). Just as today, the “Jewish Homeland” is “surrounded” on all sides by the nations of Egypt, Assyria (Syria) and Aramea (Syria and Jordan), Nabatea and Idumea (Jordan), Babylonia (Iraq), Philistia (Gaza Strip), Hittites (Turkey), Tyre and Sidon (Lebanon), Ishmael and Sheba (Arabian Peninsula) and Persia (Iran). I don’t read too much into that on a “theological” level (and on the whole I don’t take “ideological” sides in the current conflict), I just find it interesting. But the parallels between Judea under Rome and it’s proxies and America under the United States federal government today are even more interesting. Obviously they are not perfect.
In the sermon we were reminded of the situation. Herod was a bloodthirsty and paranoid usurper. Same thing going on, but ours are much smarter in the way they go about it. The people have lost their way (spiritually, but today, if not back in the day as well, there is a dearth of common sense and basic logic as well). But enough of them fear(ed) and hate(d) their overlords enough for things to eventually come to a head. And I don’t mean at the ballot box. The main difference was that the culmination of events in Palestine (from Herod’s ascension to the fall of Jerusalem) were linked to the birth of Christ, his ministry, his death, as well as other claimants to Messianic claimants or rebel leaders (the Romans, the Herodians, and the Jewish religious establishment all had cause to fear them). I do not contend that such an event, the birth of a Redeemer, will be coming to a stable near us soon. Some poor fools think it has already happened. I think it will be something else. I’m sure it will be plenty earth-shattering*, but not nearly so much as the combination of the end of the Herodians and the beginning of the Christians. Nor so glorious or miraculous.
*If you want to know immediately why I linked, start with the fifth section, sixth if you count the introduction, but please check out the whole piece.