The last couple of days were spent with my grown-up daughters in the Emerald City, where we did all kinds of grown-up things: go to their favorite frozen yogurt shop, have a lovely Thai curry made by my older daughter, sit in their well-decorated living room (wow, the taste of these women and their roommate!), go 'thrifting', and eat Indian food for lunch. Though quick, it was very fun to be with them, both separately (at times) and together; they live their lives well.
Seattle was sunny and clear yesterday, with the crystal blue sky one often hopes for, but rarely sees, during the dreary, rainy season. Now don't start, you non-Northwesterners--I already know that it rains here nine months of the year. However--HOWEVER--when the sun is out and the mountains glow white with snow and dark with evergreens, and the Sound shines in the sun, it ranks among the most beautiful places on this earth.
Yesterday was one of those days.
When I made my way up I-5 in the Friday afternoon early rush-hour traffic, I sang along with the Christmas carols on the radio, loving the sight of the scenery. When the mountains loomed north, they were as bright as the day, and they lifted me into a sense of all being right with God's creation, even the traffic, and certainly my soul! Then the road began to dip and clouds began to obscure the sun. By the time I hit south Everett, the freeway (and I suppose surrounding area) was in a deep fog. It was quite odd to think that just above that fog the sun was still bright and the sky still cerulean, because surrounding the sardine-packed traffic was dull-gray.
Then a sudden break in that cloud, just as I got to the Snohomish exit brought a shaft of light, but only for a single moment. Whether it closed or I sped past, I don't quite know, but it was gone as quickly as it came.
By the time I was halfway home, the fog had completely disappeared and once again I was driving in sun. And here in Bellingham, when I stood in our backyard, throwing tennis balls for Jamaica, though the ground had not defrosted, the jagged peaks of the Canadian range were glowing in the sun, and the bay was shining as well. It was as if that fog had never been at all.
And it was suddenly clear that this is what the Word of God is for us. And what it was for the people of God all those years they were waiting for the Messiah. They lived in a fog, with only infrequent shafts of light to give them a sudden glimpse of God's plan. Then they sped on their way, holding onto the hope of that light.
One of those shafts of light comes from Micah 5: 2--"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people of Israel."
Bethlehem. The city where David was born was also destined--set apart--to be the place where the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:7f) would be born. What a glimpse God gave His people. Telling them the place is a big one. And because the Jews knew this, when the Magi came from the east, Jerusalem became all excited about these strangers and their questions. "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." Then Herod, who thought he was the king of the Jews, got so stirred up he asked the Jewish leaders about the whole thing, heard this specific prophetic glimpse from Micah, and ended up killing all the little boys in Bethlehem, just to be sure he got rid of that dratted Jewish king who was out to usurp him.
Talk about living in a fog. Herod killed babies because he was so foggy-brained he believed he could actually out-think God. Seriously? It's a gruesome story, and has troubled Christians from the beginning. It does me. We can't pretend otherwise. And I think we have to leave it to God to sort all that out. There has been a whole lot of killing in the name of Christ since he was on this earth that began with this story and has had NOTHING to do with Jesus' and His gospel. So we must leave it in God's hands-- or, I should say all of them. There are conundrums and mysteries that are His alone. Above our pay-grade, as others have said.
And there are implications of such stories that do apply to us. What we must understand is that we can't circumvent God's plans. We can't be Herod, and try to out-think God. Because God was out in front. God showed Joseph another glimpse of light. Just enough to get him out of bed and on the move. That was all it took.
We often want the whole picture. We want it all spread out in front of us like a sunny day with bright blue skies. But perhaps we should be praying for shafts of sun--maybe shafts of Son--for sudden illumination for our drive. Bethelem. Just let the name alone be a Light shaft to remind you. God is Sovereign--right down to the time and place.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105