22 December, 2013

Jesus' Confusing Birth

It came to pass in those days there went out from President Obama a decree all nations under the American Peace must contribute to their own protection. This decree came in the third presidential term of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, and all people went to be counted in a U.N. census, every one to own city.

Joseph also went up from Khandahar in the Southwest Plateau into Ghazni, the city of Mahmud (because Joseph was of the lineage of Mahmud) to be taxed with Maryam, his wife.

Luke wrote his gospel to Greeks and Romans. It can be helpful to look at his gospel through their eyes, and how they'd have seen it very differently from a Jew of their day or a Christian of our own.

+ Presidents Bush and Obama keep the peace in Afghanistan at the cost of the occasional civilian casualty. Caesar Augustus kept his own peace-keeping forces in Judea, though his limited technology led to somewhat different rules of engagement for Roman garrisons.
+ Afghanistan is a province most Americans wish they'd never heard of. Judea was very much the same thing to a Roman. It was a constant cesspool of rebellion, full of enemies, and providing almost no economic worth to the empire.
+ We know Afghanistan as a hidey-hole for terrorists. Judea grew a steady crop of Zealots who'd gladly suicide to take a few Romans with them.
+ Hamid Karzai is the President of Afghanistan, and Herod the Great was the Roman-installed, Roman-monitored leader of Judea.
+ The Taliban promises as soon as the people obey Sharia law fully, Allah will free the nation from their tyrannical overlords. In Judea, the Pharisees insisted essentially the same thing about Rome.
+ One word from a woman's betrothed about her pregnancy would unleash the Taliban's wrath on her instantly. Joseph faced the same concern for Mary.
+ American culture has largely outgrown the stigma of unwed childbirth, and so had the Roman and Greek cultures. Luke had a job explaining Jewish morality to his culturally advanced readers!

The Jesus story was to Luke's readers the story of a nobody born to nobodies in a nowhere backwater ruled by suicidal terrorists, religious fanatics, and a sycophantic king. It was just another weird story from a weird place!

The Jesus story provoked the average Roman to wonder why would God be born in such a place when Rome was available? Rome had the CNN of the ancient world. Anything to happen in Rome could be known the world over in weeks. And if God were to schedule His debutante's ball for Judea, why send an army of angels to announce Himself to shepherds? What kind of glory or intimidation could they bring? Why hide from Herod, Quirinius, and the High Priest of that Jewish religion?

Our God handled the event mysteriously to the Roman mind, and also to the American mind. The American mind grapples with it by asserting God was trying to prove His love to the very least, or He was fulfilling prophecies to His people. American's look at God's odd behavior and need to find some ultimately victorious strategery.

I settle for something simpler.

My sentimental favorite theory is Jesus was unwilling to seat Himself at the head of the table, preferring to seat Himself in the humblest place and allow the host to move Him up. He announced Himself as God in the humblest way imaginable, and He did it for all the reasons He gave His disciples.

Or did He tell the parable because He knew it was true, even of the most important things? What Jesus actually did greatly outweighed what people knew about what He did. The doing was sufficient, even if no gawking spectators are amazed by the event. One doesn't play a fanfare when planting a seed. One plants it. A man who trumpets the planting of his seed doesn't truly trust the mystery of gardening. He wants his credit now, in case the crop never comes. Jesus knew He was planting Himself deeply in rich soil, and the family He reaped would be without end. He needed no audience.

The humility of Christ's birth bears a message, but the message is of God's total confidence. God needs no props from His enemies and only love from His friends.