Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name. Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother. Stay there until I tell you to return because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 3:13
Wow! So much for the peace and joy proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds. We have just been introduced to a messiah, Counselor, Comforter, Prince of Peace, and then a few days later the angel says, “Run, run, run, Joseph and Mary. Grab the baby and get out of town.”
Should we totally discount the story of Jesus? In chapter 2, He has come to save us and then in chapter 3 the entire family is running to Egypt to save themselves. Herod conducts his murderous rampage on the babies in Bethlehem under 2 years of age. With no historical confirmation of this event and few details from the Scriptures, we could easily pack the Herod account away as mere myth and throw out the Jesus story too. But then the unchanging realities of this world would be denied and we will continue to live in darkness. Jesus was born into a world of violence, inequity, abuse, war, mean-spiritedness.
That child of peace and joy did not stay in the manger forever. He gathered a motley assembly of like-minded men and women who called themselves ‘the Way’. Not confined to 1st century Palestine, they survived murder and torture over the following centuries so that today we can accept through faith and hope that He was born to save us from spiritual death. That’s the Good News proclaimed to the shepherds on the hillside outside Bethlehem, the Good News proclaimed by Jesus and his followers. That’s the Good News that drives searchers like you and I to put one foot in front of the other on this path we travel.
But, does He save us from a chaotic world of violence and hatred? I would be misleading myself if I thought, as his countrymen did, that the world around me will change just because he appeared on the scene of my life. They wanted a savior to lead them out of Roman occupation and theological oppression. They wanted a 1st century solution to their lives of pain and hardships. But, that did not happen.
That is where I rested my atheism, my agnosticism, and my doubt for so many years of my life. I did not see the world moving toward any semblance of peace and joy and I blamed a weak Jesus for the world’s problems. “Why would God allow the hatred, the child abuse, the murderous rampages of modern-day Herods, the deaths of innocents?”
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Therein is truth, an answer to my questions. God’s promise to us, through his Son, is not that He will descend upon the world’s wickedness and clean house. No, the scriptures, I believe, are saying that when we invite him into our inner sanctum, then we will see the world differently, with an indefatigable joy and peace. Quite possibly you and I, and millions like us with faith and hope and love can be the lights in the darkness. Just a thought, but I like it. I want to shine with the light of life instead of living in the darkness. AMEN?
(The Lutheran Church celebrates today the “Feast of the Innocents and Martyrs. Thanks to the writers of the link below for a wealth of inspiration for this post.)
Lord, today we remember the innocents, those who are victims of the world’s darkness and hatred. Especially the children, whom you gave to us to protect and nurture, need your caring arms in countries at war, living in the decadence of sex trade, traveling across many miles to fulfil dreams of freedom and prosperity in another land, facing the hostility assigned today to the label of ‘immigrant’. Those innocents are your children. Remind us of your words telling us about our duty to protect them. AMEN