OK I’ve had a rough patch spiritually, wordpress brutally records that my last post was 14 days ago. Our pastor reminded me that christmas in Australia is a mess, he’s lived in Canada for a few years, and he’d forgotten the way the tempo increases to breaking point in the lead up to christmas. And he’s right, there is that.
I think its my family, all of them have issues, and church is wearing me down too. I volunteered to play organ at the early service a few days a month, it quickly became 4 times a month, and its affecting the family. We’re all going through a spiritual low patch.
2 of my kids have pretty pronounced mental issues, and my wife is struggling. My third child daughter, has just finished uni and is a qualified visual artist… ie: has absolutely no idea what to do with her life and is in crisis.
Often this would all make me turn to the father for solace, but I’ve been hit with a terrible ennui, reaching a low point last sunday morning when I spoke to our pastor and told him I was feeling low. Its always better to say these things out loud. I’ve found a bit of calm and cheer since, and here I am, writing about Matthew again.
Also I’ve come to doubt that this is a good way to read the bible. Nothing like losing faith in the fundamental project parameters to really take the stream out of something.
The division of the bible into chapters and reading one each day is very arbitrary. I think I need to lower my expectations that I will get a blessing from reach one that will take to my situation on that day. It’s just too forced. I’ll have to pray about that.
Reading the passage, if gospels were movies, Matthew would be the angsty European version of the nativity. No hollywood baby scenes with animals here, no Christmas cards. First we emphasised the potential shame of the virgin birth through Joseph’s eyes, now the birth itself takes place offstage, from a scene in Herod’s palace as he questions the maji and brushes up on the troubling messiah legend. Emphasis on scary. Of course, the infanticide that accompanies the birth of christ is truly terrible, and doesn’t make it to a lot of shopping centre tableaux.
The theological message is all about Jesus’ messiahship, kingship. The social backdrop is the sexual and political dangers that are ever present. Evil is everywhere.
And stupidity. Why do we call the maji “wise”? They make a big splash going to the colonial imposed “king” herod saying they are there looking for the baby born to usurp his role. Are they mad? The Messiah was born to be crucified I suppose, but they virtually sealed his fate right there. PS It’s not the same herod who did the trial of Jesus. It’s either a fluke or an official title. More than one herod.
The relentless emphasis is on fulfilled prophecy. Jews, this is your Messiah, it says.
No manger, no shepherds or angels in the fields, no oxen standing by, no Annunciation and song of joy by Mary (indeed barely any Mary at all), no wondrous childhood. It’s a lean and austere Christmas story.