Tag Archives: Christmas

Merry Disturbing Christmas!

Nine years ago I wrote a post entitled Herod & Jerusalem based on some reflection on Matthew 2:1-4. I came back across that passage this Christmas season and wanted to offer some new and refined possible responses to the question, “Why was Herod and all of Jerusalem troubled when hearing about Jesus?”  Here’s the text:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.“ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

This version uses the phrase “troubled,” but others use “disturbed” to describe the emotional response by Herod the Great and all of Jerusalem.  Have you ever thought of what all of Jerusalem means?  Does that mean every single person? Does it mean the rich? The religious? The powerful? The educated?  Or does it mean all? I don’t know definitively what all means here as there was no internet or newspaper service, but I would assume it includes at least the rich and powerful who had a vested interest in the politics and leadership of the day. AKA – the rich, powerful, religious, and educated.

And what does it mean that they were troubled or disturbed? Weren’t the Jews waiting in expectation for a Messiah, a deliverer, a King that would restore them to glory?  Why were these Jewish leaders disturbed rather than curious or hopeful?  And what does that matter for us today?  Here are some of my theories….

Here are some of my theories….

1.  Maybe the news of a newborn prophesied King of the Jews disturbed the elite because they feared the disruption of the social order.  The leaders of Jerusalem had established some measure of stability through Herod’s relationship with Caeser Augustus and the fear of Roman intervention. And in any system, there those who benefit from a political administration and those who may not. Maybe all of Jerusalem means those who found a pretty good life under Herod were more worried about losing their status in the face of local rebellion or Roman retaliation than about Biblical prophecies? Word of a new and promised king would mean a challenge to the political order of the day with potential vast ramifications for those with status in that order.

2.  Maybe Herod and all of Jerusalem were more disturbed than hopeful because they could not see God’s way of providing for His people.  Maybe, as people often do, they fell into patterns of belief and thought that God’s promised King would only come through “Kingly” lineage as viewed through the lens of the day. Of course, Jesus does have Kingship in his bloodlines as Matthew’s genealogy attests, but so did a lot of other people. Maybe people were blinded by their own elitism and expectations about where great leaders come from? Maybe the new King should be born a King and the thought that a baby born in Bethlehem could be a King was ridiculous. As such, this child again becomes a threat to the political and social order because he could not possibly be from the right stock.

3.  Maybe the educated and religious elite stopped expecting the Messiah because they liked their religious system they had developed and the control and status they gained from enforcing it? Maybe the news of a newborn Messianic King was disturbing because they were focused on policy rather the story of Israel? Maybe they feared the loss of their tight religious system if Rome got involved in a power struggle?

4.  But maybe there’s a deeper level of disruption involved? While Herod was disturbed no doubt because of the threat to his power and position, maybe all of Jerusalem was disturbed with him because the presence of two Kings brings the question of allegiance to the forefront. The news that a promised “King of the Jews” has come from outside the current royal line means a challenge to current authority. And for all those “around,” it means there will be a day of reckoning, a time to choose.  Who will they give their allegiance too?  In such a time, everyone has to choose. It’s only a matter of time.

Maybe it’s some parts of all of the above. Comfort, status, control, and safety seem to be factors for why all of Jerusalem began to get disturbed and anxious. But at the core, I believe all of this gets at the anxiety of allegiance. When allegiance is secure, these other things are not disturbing even in the face of risk and danger.

All of Jerusalem seemed to be feeling the anxiety of allegiance, even if they couldn’t put a name to it.  And unless we have addressed our own allegiance once and for all, we should be disturbed by Christmas as well.  But is so, is your anxiety because you fear losing power, status, comfort, or control?

This is what makes the incarnation amazing – the promised King came with no earthly power, status, comfort, and with total vulnerability. The foolish things of the world have shamed the wise.

 

Back – Just in Time for the New Year!

Ok – it’s been a while!

Since my last post, I moved along with my family to Quezon City (Metro Manila) in the Philippines and have gone through somewhat of a vocational shift in becoming a Professor of Leadership Studies at the International Graduate School of Leadership in Manila.  It’s been a wild experience and I’ll begin posting more now that we are more settled and have a little more capacity.

In the meantime, you can check out some of the highlights of what our family has been up to in this video slideshow we put together for our family, friends, and ministry partners this Christmas.

Virtue Manila Xmas 2013 from Brian Virtue on Vimeo.

Pre-School Theology: Existential Christmas

This entry is part 4 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

This week was a big week for our family because the kids really love decorating the house for Christmas.  So me and the kids go to town and transform half of our house into Christmas central.

While we were doing some decorating my son, who just turned five, started asking questions. The wheels are turning. He’s on the verge of figuring out the truth about Santa.

He first started expressing skepticism about reindeer.

“They’re deer after all. And if they are still just deer – how can they fly? Are their reindeer that can really fly?”

But shortly thereafter I was blown away when he asked verbatim, with a very amount of emotion and earnestness,

“I don’t understand. To get presents from Santa, how good do you have to be? How does He know?  Is it true?  I don’t know how good I’m supposed to be to get presents.  How do I know how good I’ve been?

….or is it all a big joke?   What’s real?”

I thought to myself, “Wow. Isn’t that what most people have to wrestle with in life at one point or another?”  My son doesn’t jump out as the philosophical type if you experience our family, but he consistently blows me away with some of his questions and what he thinks about. This led to a good conversation about grace and works in achieving favor with God.

Life sooner or later will feel like a big joke when we try, without being anchored in Jesus Christ and the meaning he gives to our existence, to get a handle on the question about whether we are good enough or how to know how good we need to be.  I for one am thankful that God brought me to a point where I had to face the bold truth that I could never be good enough to be accepted and forgiven by God.  And that he had created me with dignity and with a purpose and that I could be good enough through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So it was a great conversation to break (or weaken at least) the bad theology of the naughty and nice list and present a more true and beautiful picture of how God sees those who are found in His son Jesus.   He hasn’t fully tossed the idea of Santa into the trash can yet, but it is fun seeing him not put as much at stake in the celebrated human and worldly tradition of performing for blessing  – whether the object is Santa or, on a much bigger level, God.

Ho, Ho, Ho 🙂   Love this time of year with young kids though.  Very fun.

Not a White Christmas for Everyone

This is one of my favorite posts to put up every Christmas – straight from my neighbor’s porch…Merry Christmas!!

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I took this picture last week on my neighbors front porch because it’s awesome. It’s a life-sized, African-American Santa statue.

I love this season, but as part of the majority culture (from an ethnic standpoint) it’s not always easy knowing how others, those part of the ethnic minority, experience these holiday seasons when some of their expression is so rooted in the majority culture.

There are those that might see this and want to make the point that Saint Nicholas was in fact from one of those northern European countries and was probably white. That’s really besides the point. The point is that sometimes it’s good to remember how others experience things that those of us in the dominant culture take for granted and don’t even think twice about. That’s what this statue is a reminder of to me. I loved it when I saw it for the first time and had to take a picture. It can be a little sobering at times to realize that traditions we hold dear can actually serve to alienate others.

My Jewish friends have always joked about always going out to Chinese food every year on Christmas because everywhere else is closed.  That’s another reminder that while we have some very enjoyable holiday seasons, not everybody experiences them the same way.

Haiku Winning Tebow Style

It’s been a while since I won anything so I figured any win is worth a post.   I’m proud to announce that my Haiku was voted as the winner of my friend Stephanie’s Christmas Haiku contest over at infinitequeso.com

Thanks to anyone who actually voted for me.  I’ve prepared a Tebow-esque victory speech for this important moment.  Here it goes:

“I’d like to first thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Second, it’s a special thing when things don’t go well and kids start puking everywhere and when you’re not feeling well and cleaning up puke all night, but your team really comes together instead of drifts apart.

I’d like to thank my teammates and especially my wife, who continued to believe and fight hard for 24 hours believing that if we just believed and hung in there good things were going to happen.

I’d like to thank the Lord also for my sweet little six year old daughter Morgan, who just didn’t have the strength to make it all the way to the bathroom, but had she made it there – there would be no Haiku victory to share.  I’d also like to thank our loyal Christmas tree that absorbed the puke and took one for the time. She helped take something that was really ugly and made it beautiful.

And finally a thanks to Stephanie and Infinitequeso.com for hosting the contest and for the voters.

God Bless!”

Haiku Tebowing

Obviously, if you haven’t been tracking Tebow-mania then this might not have made much sense to you, but I wanted to have a little fun with it 🙂

 

My 2011 Christmas Haiku Contest Entry

I once again submitted an entry, though a bit last minute to my friend Stephanie’s Holiday Haiku Contest.

My theme was Christmas tv shows and I was inspired from our unfortunate flu night, the night we’ll never forget as a family, as inspiration.    The contest is winding down so it might only be open for a few more hours but you can head over there and see other Haiku’s.

My entry this year, inspired by Charlie Brown and our flu night:

Weak tree Charlie Brown
But at least yours didn’t get
Puked on like my tree

And for fun my entry last year inspired by Elf:

Buddy the Elf Rocks
“You sit on a throne of lies!”
Shows He’s Prophetic

 

O Christmas Tree

So we finally got back in our place and we wanted to get some Christmas up to help us get out from under the pile of crisis that we’ve been in.

We worked hard and got the tree up and turned off the lights and turned on the tree and prepared to take a deep breath after all the work to get settled back into our place (sans kitchen floor and some cabinets).

And have you ever had a moment that something happens so pure, so honest, and so innocent that it moves you into some kind of holy moment?

We lit the tree and the lights were off and we were about to move on to the next thing when Colin, our 4 year old, just started singing in his sweet little voice the Christmas carol “O Christmas Tree.”  I had my phone so I took a quick picture of the moment (below).  Colin’s so in the moment while his sister is busy planning Christmas decorating like an event planner.

But what a reminder to enjoy the moment with all of its wonder.  I love this about my son.  He’s always having moments like this.

Addendum: And then a couple days later all 5 of us got the flu and the Christmas Tree somehow ended up getting puked on.  At least there was that one moment before another storm!

Ever Had a Hero? (With Video)

Have you ever had a hero? Someone who inspires you, who you want to be like, or who you want to spend as much as time possible with because to you they’re larger than life?I want to invite you into the mind of a three year old boy.I’m not going to give a big run down on my Christmas, but we enjoyed some great family time.  I am going to share here part of a gift that we gave my brother-in-law Dave, teaching pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Costa Mesa.  For about a year and a half he has been the object of a monster-sized man crush from my son.  Colin talks a lot about both his local uncles, but I think Dave’s guitar playing sealed the bond between them given Colin’s music obsession.   I had some good pictures and couldn’t resist putting this together real quick.Props to Dave for handling his little shadow very well! But as parents you can’t help but want people in your kids’ lives who can be legitimate heroes to them. We’re blessed to have a couple great uncles locally (my brothers-in-law) who are that to our kids in many ways along with their wives (my sisters) and others.So this is a fun way of our saying thank you to Dave (& Jeff!) for the role they play in our kids’ lives. And if you’re catching this on the 27th, Happy Birthday Jeff!

My Video for Dave & Colin from Brian Virtue on Vimeo.