Have you ever been pursued. Have you ever been pursued by someone meaning to do you harm? I have. It was in high school, freshman year. Two friends and I were chased by a car load full of guys who were tanked. These guys had a reputation for being mean spirited and always liked to pick on people they considered to be weaker. The chase wasnt long. We were on foot. They were driving. We zigged when we should have zagged and ended up cornered in an alley where the guys proceeeded to beat on my two friends. When it was my turn someone recognized me and realized his father and my father were friends. I got a reprieve. But my palms were sweaty and my fear was off the charts.When you’re afraid the pursuit can create quite a bit of an anxiety.
During Advent we talk often about the child Jesus being forced into exile by Herod the Great. He saw the child as a threat to his throne so he pursued him. I can imagine that leaving Israel for Egypt was anxiety ridden for Mary and Joseph. When you stare danger in the face that’s part of the equation.
I wonder if Herod would have been as quick to pursue if he understood completely who this child really was. Let’s go to the book of Revelations (19) and take a back of the book sneak peak at the child in the manger in full throttle Godness.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
In the scriptures we get many glimpses of Jesus. Perhaps none is more dramatic than this passage in Revelations. The child pursued by the evil king Herod ultimately reveals Himself as the King and Lord of all. This picture of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is stunning in its portrayal of strength and ultimate victory.
Would Herod have been so brazen if he knew he was chasing God?
It's almost inconceivable that any earthly power would attempt to stand against Jesus if they had the full picture ...right?
As improbable as it sounds people do. We do. You have. We will. History is littered with the stories of men and women who dared to think they were beyond the reach of God. People who, like Herod, made war on God by attacking His creation.
As human beings we have this amazing ability to delude ourselves.
A few months ago we were at a conference on Coronado Island near San Diego. We were there when the Navy Seals finished their pursuit of Osama Bin Laden. Since the Seals are trained on Coronado we decided to go down to an Irish Pub for dinner the next day, where Navy Seals hang out. I remember looking at those guys ...cut, fit, big, big necks, square heads. And I said to Anita, “You know what’s scary? Every year, probably several times a year, a group of guys get liquored up somewhere and someone brazenly says “I bet those Seals aren’t all that tough without all their guns and knives. Let’s go find out.” And so they do. My bet that 100% of the time that they were right. That the Seals aren’t as tough as they thought they were ...in fact, they were tougher.
It’s mind numbing isn't it ... how we’re willing to take on what we know we shouldn’t and often shy away from taking on what we should. How many, by word and deed even today, show the same kind of disdain Herod did for God?
If I had been in charge of the coming of Jesus I think I would have been inclined to have sent him on his white horse all tatooed up and forget the baby stuff. To have Him come in power and not hidden. I would have had Him look the powers of this world in the eye and dared them to come against Him. For good reasons God didn't choose me to orchestrate His entrance into the world. Instead of a show of power he came to continue his pursuit of us cloaked in humility and vulnerability. As improbable as it sounds ... He comes under cover. No white horse. No army. The Scripture even tells us:
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed. Isaiah 53
The improbable choice of God was to identify fully with us. It was from what looked like a place of weakness that he would continue his pursuit of us. He chose to meet evil with improbable strategies . To play the game without exercising divine prerogatives.
The strategy of God was to walk among us as one of us, inviting us to embrace our true mission and identity.
And what does He say to us? My understanding of the good news tells me that he’s saying something like this.
When I made you you were good and created to do good. Sin damaged you and tainted all of creation. Nothing is as I intended it to be. I'm here to heal you, redeem you and restore you. I’m here to invite you to join me in the ongoing work of healing and restoration that will release the creation from the bondage it is in. Will you join me?
In that invitation is the gift of Christmas.