Monday, December 22, 2008

The sting in the tale of Christmas

Last Christmas I wrote a blog entry about a part of the Nativity story we often miss (click here).
But there is another section of the story we tend to skip - probably because it's not nice.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. (Matt:2 :16)

Herod, acting on a perceived threat from Jesus responds in out of his megalomania by ordering the massacre of all male children 2 years old and under.

I remember when I was a child in Sunday school, our teacher was showing us the t.v. series 'Jesus of Nazareth'. We watched with joy as Shepherds and Wise Men visited the Stable and 'paid homage to the Christ Child' - and then the teacher stopped the tape at a place that was obviously not the end of the episode.

When we complained, we were informed that the next section 'was not suitable for children'.

It was the Slaughter of the Innocents.

It's out of place with the fuzzy nostalgic Christmas story. It doesn't look good on a Christmas Card and we definitely can't have our young children acting it out as part of the yearly Nativity Play.

The Brick Testament which is a website that the publishes bible stories interpreted visually with Lego, and is an excellent site to waste some time, published a book of the Nativity Story which sells on Amazon. I was reading a review that criticized the book for showing this scene in Lego.

The reviewer felt that the picture was inappropriate in a children's Christmas book - not that the Lego Nativity market's itself as a children's book in any way.

The story makes us feel uncomfortable, we wish it wasn't part of the Christmas Story, and so we deal with it by ignoring it. The trouble is we reduce the story when we do that. We create a sanitized version that is age-appropriate, and in doing so remove part of what drives the narrative along. Without the Slaughter of the Innocents, Mary, Joseph's and Jesus escape to Egypt makes no sense.

We 'tidy up' the story of Christmas to somehow make it 'more acceptable'. We remove from the story anything that may give offense to us.

I 'tidy up' the story of my life to somehow make it 'more acceptable' too. There are parts of my past that make me uncomfortable. There are parts of my past that I wish I could travel back in time and erase. But those parts of my past have shaped me and formed me, I would be less of a person without them.

Another theme that I see in myself in this story is the response of Herod to the news of the Wise men.

Herod's worldview certainly doesn't have room in it for a new King, even one as young as Jesus is a threat to him. And so Herod does what he knows, he lashes out in and orgy of violence out of all proportion to the event itself. He is so intent on clinging on to the status quo that blood is shed.

I can get like that, I have a framework that I call 'Christian', and when a person, or a theology comes along to shake that framework I resist change. It's sad when I do that to others, but it is dangerous when I do it to myself. I find something within me that is so at odds with what I consider 'Christian' that I am left with 2 choices. Either deny and destroy what is within me or enlarge my 'framework'.

And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. (Matthew 12:25)

It is amazing to me the energy that I have wasted slaughtering innocent parts of myself because they do no fit into some preconceived idea of what 'Christianity' looks like. I'm not perfect, my theology is not perfect, and yet somehow I would rather enslave myself to a faulty framework than allow myself to change.

I am the innocent slaughtered, and I am the slaughterer of thousands.

It's time the killing should stop.

1 comment:

Don said...

Wow... could what I started in you actually be bearing fruit?