Room to act gloriously
Matthew 2:1-12 CEB
Linc, my husband, was recently telling me how much he respects J.J. Abrams. That man throws out movie and TV ideas like spaghetti against a kitchen wall. Sometimes it sticks and sometimes doesn't. Heard of Lost, Person of Interest, Once Upon a Time, or Fringe? Those are all his creative ideas that stuck. Yet, it is not his creative skill that has garnered Linc's respect so much- it's his humility.
As Linc puts it, Abrams get's tons of his ideas produced. Some of it rocks, like Lost. Some of it falls a little shy, like Super 8. Some of it just doesn't work, like Cloverfield. When something just doesn't hit the mark he takes the blame. There are so many people working to make his imaginations a reality and there are so many people who could be the cause of a failure. The blame will always fall squarely on his shoulders. If it didn't work it must have been something he did wrong.
If something goes extremely well, like Lost for example, he will always give the credit away. Sure, it was his idea but he will throw admiration and praise to the actors, the ones behind the camera, and those editing away beyond that. When he could use the moment to self-promote, he raises up other's skills and talents. A real class act. Abrams understands a project is a collection of many hard working people putting in many hard working hours. He shares the lime light. If something fails the buck stops with him; when something succeeds everyone who made it happen needs to be thanked.
Abrams, in my opinion, expresses how to have healthy relationships; Godly relationships. As I have said before and will continue to say, Jesus came into the world, in part, to focus on relationship. One does not need to look too far into today's scripture to see how broken the world with their relationships had become, and how much God was wanting to fix it.
King Herod could be considered the poster child for creating broken relationship. He was a selfish man who did more to gain power than give it away. Herod's greatest accomplishment was rebuilding the temple, but what did that do? The temple should have been God's Temple, a place where the people of God could relate with the divine. Yet, Herod does this tremendous temple expansion, and for what? For God? No, for himself. He installed a glorious golden alter, it had heavenly blue ceilings, and at the entrance was the symbol for the Roman Empire. When Jews rebelled the symbol by tearing it down, Herod had the men who rebelled gathered up and executed. If he felt someone was vying for power, even if they were a relative, he would end their life. This included his favorite wife who he murdered just on a hunch she could be working against him.
This is what Herod did. He acted in selfish ways that would help himself over and beyond anyone else. Let me use a popular quote: He did build that. He built an empire on hate and evil using the tools of selfish motivations. What he built destroyed and tore people apart. He fed the Romans high temple taxes while he pretended to appease the Jewish populous. He was a chasm creator. He built that. I submit the temple was already torn in two before Jesus ever was born in a manger. It was torn between the Romans and the Jews.
Now God. In early manuscript versions of the Gospel of Matthew the scriptures from the Hebrew Bible were not included. It was later versions the gospel writer uses the past (Hebrew Bible) to explain the truth to the present (New Testament.) Let me do the same. God made a promise to Abraham, he was promised to be the father of a great nation. How has that family evolved up to the birth of a savior? Linage. Linage wasn't limited to the first born as we see with Issac, Jacob, and King David. Women were important to the line as we see with Naomi. The outsider is welcomed in as we see with Ruth. God's story is a tale of inclusion, not exclusion. It is a story of relationship and how the family of God continues to grow richer with growth from all sides.
Enter the Wisemen. These men are important for one simple reason: they were invited in. God wasn't excluding or cutting off. They were rich outsiders. They were the exact opposite of everyone who had come to pay homage to the new born savior. In that way they become the perfect cherry on top of the Christmas story. Also, unlike Herod who had to have all action and memory focused on him, God takes a back seat allowing the people to shine. God uses a star to guide the Wisemen. God acts through a dream to tell the Wisemen to not return to Herod.
In so many ways God invites us in and gives us the room to act gloriously. Even if the plan belongs to God and even if the celebration is for a divine savior. We, as God's people, whether we are born into it or are transplants, are giving leading roles. All of us are giving the invitation. Rich. Poor. Pious. Lost. I believe even Herod, through the Wisemen, had the opportunity and invitation to be part of the family. His selfishness ultimately got in the way.
We have to realize God is willing to give us the spotlight and we need to be humble enough to share the light. As this Christmas season comes to a close and a new year is on the horizon, remember: Anyone can play a part in the divine story. Anyone can gain an invitation. God then gives us room to act gloriously.