Archive | January, 2015

The Spirit of Herod

6 Jan


Although the din did not appear as great as in previous years, there were still ‘holiday’ trees, ‘winter’ concerts, and ‘solstice celebrations’, along with a liberal dose of the word ‘festive’ and even ‘party season.’  this Christmas.  A few days after Christmas I opened my annual tin of Quality Street (Christmas would not be complete without it) only to find the lid embossed with ‘Happy Diwali’.  The other tin I received (I was spoiled this Christmas) had no greeting – I guess it was an atheist tin.

In the Christmas narrative from Matthew’s Gospel we read of several responses to the birth of the baby Jesus.  Magi from the east were stirred to make a long, arduous journey across the desert.  Jerusalem we are told was ‘disturbed’, the Greek word meaning ‘agitated, or troubled.’  Surprisingly, the chief priests and teachers didn’t appear to be too bothered (or excited) that a long awaited prophecy was being fulfilled.  Know any people in today’s church like that?

The most outrageous reaction though came from Herod.  Although he feigned interest, it was he who was at the source of the agitation in Jerusalem.  Herod was not a nice guy.  Family members that he suspected of casting a longing glance at his throne were permanently dispatched, if you catch my drift.  Herod really enjoyed being king, and regardless of who this baby might be, there could only be one king—and Herod didn’t share.

A number of years ago Bramwell Booth wrote:

Herod the king sought to kill the child.  So it is even now.  Don’t be deceived; where Christ comes, storms come.  The world of selfishness and power and wealth will kill the Divine Thing in you, if it can.  Between the prince of this world and the Prince of the world to come no truce was possible long ago in quiet Judea, and no truce is possible now.  The spirit of the world is still the spirit of murder.[1]

I wonder what Booth would make of the world in which we now live, where any public acknowledgement of the birth of this child ‘troubles’ the ACLU, and others like them.  Why so threatened by a baby in a manger?   There was even a university (a place we associate with ‘higher learning’), that sought to ban candy canes because, yes, if it was held in a certain way it made a ‘J’.  The horror!

Yes, the spirit of Herod is alive (and not very well) even today.  It still refuses to share any glory, or relinquish any authority to the child.  And while we cannot expect the world to sing His praises and celebrate His birth, how can we keep from singing?  If angels, who have seen just about everything, can get excited at His birth, then how much more those to whom He came.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Cor 9:15)

[1] Bramwell Booth, Our Master: Thoughts for Salvationists About Their Lord  (London: The Salvation Army Publishing Department, 1913), 48.


Family Portait

5 Jan

Family Portrait

Being the husband of an amateur genealogist, I’ve become quite familiar with the value attached to a family tree. Through many hours of vacation time, Laurie has discovered a connectedness to the past that still excites her, and she readily shares (whether or not I want to hear) all of the neat things she discovers about all the leaves on her family tree. For instance, she found that one of her relatives died in the workplace accident—falling through a trap door. She still smiles when I suggest that the family history has glossed over fact that the trapdoor was in a scaffold upon which a man wearing a hood worked—if you catch my drift.

The genealogy of Jesus, as given us in Matthew 1, reminds us of many things, including the idea that every life matters. While we will never meet Amminadab or Salmon (something fishy about that guy), Uzziah or Josiah, or even Akim or Matthan, this side of eternity; Matthew demonstrates that their lives mattered. Although each of the fathers (and also the mothers) listed likely wanted the best for their offspring, it is equally as likely they were unaware that one day one of the family line, a young man called Joseph, would be charged with raising the Son of God.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It is in the ‘all things’ we see God’s hand at work in this family tree. Even when mistakes were made (adultery), or when the character of the individuals was less than stellar (see 1 & 2 Kings), God was able to work it for the good.

The family tree of Jesus is a picture of what God can do in our own family tree. While in any given moment we might feel unimportant—every life matters. While we might lament some poor choice or wrong decision we’ve made—God can and does work for the good ‘in all things’. Our lives are part of a family portrait that is being painted over generations. However, it is the choices we make in the moment that determine how we appear in that portrait.

In my own family tree, Laurie’s research led me to a short Irish leaf named John Reilly. John was a stretcher bearer for the British Army during WWI. Though we are unsure of how it came about, what makes the 5’4” John stand tall in my family portrait is his insistence that his grandson (my father), attend Ballymacarrett Corps (now Belfast Sydenham) and play in the Junior Band. Whatever John’s motivation, I am who I am and where I am today partly because of a stubborn Irishman (who may have been a Scotsman). John’s life mattered. Your life matters. And it is God who takes all the leaves, some of them fallen, and restores them, all together, to create His own family tree.