Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Thorns

I have finished reading through Jeremiah and Lamentations and have decided to take a break from the prophets to read the NT accounts of Jesus’ birth.

Today Matthew 1,2

The image I get here is of God doing all that is needed to keep the flickering flame of His plan burning. His Son will be born. He uses ordinary means as long as they suffice. But He is never stymied by how grim or hopeless things look. When the situation needs a stronger message, a more direct approach he does what is necessary– breaks through in a vision to Joseph, causes the Magi to notice His star, comes to them in a vision warning them not to return to Herod, warns Joseph to flee to Egypt, and finally moves Joseph, again through a dream, away from Judea and to Nazareth. This tells me God will do what it takes to fulfill His plans and purposes. He can break through in any way He pleases.

Jesus survived. But along the way some were not spared. "...he (Herod) put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts..." (Matthew 2:16). With all the miracles in this story, surely God could have performed one more and interfered in some way to save these innocent lives. But He didn’t. Their deaths were apparently part of His purpose too.

We (I) like to think of Christmas as a pristine time when all is peace and beauty and joy and love. We celebrate the purity and whiteness of snow, the warmth of firelight and family, the beauty of Christmas music in the holy hush of candlelight services. We feel betrayed when our celebrations are marred by botch-ups – things like planes missed, people getting sick, death. But why should we expect any less thorn pokes than were part of the first Christmas.

In my world right now, all kinds of things seem wrong. My cousin has her first chemo treatment for Stage 3 ovarian cancer today. A friend is facing a year of chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer. A former neighbor is wasting away with pancreatic cancer. A young couple in our church discovered in the last week that the baby they were expecting was severely malformed, in fact had a condition which put the life of the mom in jeopardy and so they were forced to make a heart-rending decision.

I believe that God has the power to put all these ‘wrong’ things right. I pray and trust and watch, but so far He hasn’t chosen to do that. The only conclusion I can come to is that in some way, like those babies slaughtered by Herod, these things are part of His purpose. (And how He fulfills both His overall will in nations and history while simultaneously working out His particular will in the lives of individuals is a feat no smaller than creation itself.)

I find this revelation of my omnipotent God both comforting and disturbing. It’s comforting to realize that, no matter how things look, God’s plans won’t be thwarted by anyone or anything. My response is to want to be available to Him, to do whatever He wants through me. At the same time I know that just because I’m flowing in His river doesn’t guarantee me a pain-free, ease-filled life without its agonizing moments of bewilderment.


  1. I am sorry for all these hard things. Christmas is not about ease; it's about hope.

  2. Julana, I wrote this shortly after reading your post along similar lines -- but the thoughts were percolating before that. So true - Christmas is about hope - despite the fog of hard things that threatens to obscure it!


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