The Christmas Story covers many aspects of the human condition: faithfulness, suspense, disruption, intrigue, hope, destruction, pride, apathy, humility, joy, celebration, worship, and Jesus to name a few. Matthew, a tax collector, tells of a story that should rattle us this season. The story deals with apathy vs pursuit. The character to focus on, the chief priests.
Knowledge, wisdom, action, oh my!
A group of wisemen are demonstrating pursuit. Likely this because of the faithfulness of a man named Daniel centuries before. Astronomy changed and there is a new star the wisemen were pursuing. They approach King Herod, the prideful arrogant person of the story. The focus, where was the King of the Jews? Herod did not know, so he consulted the knowledgeable ones: The chief priests. They gave the answer. They went back to business as usual…
Apathy not tradition is the enemy
We would think the priests would be rattled and excited by Herod’s question, especially since foreigners were present looking for the Messiah. They knew the answer, but wisdom was lacking and so apathy was the action. The wisemen acting on their wisdom but lacked knowledge. Herod acted to save is own pride, and kills all the children of certain ages to stop Jesus. We often don’t focus on the apathy of the priests. It’s a problem and a symptom of what was wrong in Israel, and many of us. The traditions pointing to Jesus didn’t fail. The apathy of the priests did.
The vitriol and politics of 2016 should cause action, but we often choose apathy. People with knowledge were wrong and people with wisdom lacked knowledge, and for the most part we all acted poorly. We despised the environment which we all created. My fear is, like the priests, we see the needed lessons to be learned, but our apathy will squash the learning. My hope is like the wisemen we will pursue clearer action. What are the lessons?
We can all be better listeners: One thing the dismal election year demonstrated was a lack of listening on all sides. If we love our neighbor, this is a problem. Many were talking, few were listening, and everyone is shocked and mad in some way. Will we stop and become better listeners, or continue in the echo chambers of our own viewpoints?
We cannot delegate loving our neighbors: In dealing with the frustrations of culture attempts were made to hear the other side. A key questions is often raised, how do we civilly are respectfully make our voices heard, and right action taken. The answer has always been there, local politics. Forums already exist to discuss or keep grievances from happening. To often we avoid one another via avoiding local politics. We don’t want the fight or frustration. This apathetic choice we made resulted in our dismal election cycle. We cannot delegate loving our neighbor to someone else. Will we show up where it matters to better our cities?
We can make a point, but we really need to work on making a difference: We act based on what we believe. One belief demonstrated is that if we’re right that will be enough. It isn’t. Perhaps our win should change from ‘I told your so’ to ‘I loved you so.’ Winning at the cost of our soul is empty, and fighting with everything we got is just as vain. Will we focus on making our communities better, or just helping our “team” to win?
The bottom line:
Like the Christmas Story of long ago, the problems are still current and fresh. People missed the learning opportunities then, the question is will be do the same now? Today, like at Jesus’ birthday, the answer really is Jesus. He showed up as both a model, a teacher, and the answer. So many missed what was the most profound act in history. Will you and I be like the priests or the wisemen in Jesus story? Will we learn the lessons of 2016 and become better at loving our neighbors, or will we miss them?