Happy New Year! This is what the church considers the start of the new year in scriptures and what a way to kick it off. This apocalyptic text from Matthew is as clear as mud. So we do what we always do, throw our own projections onto it. It made such a good storyline its been included in Christain books and movies. The one sinful one left behind, while the righteous is taken up and away. It fits with our view of God as some master magician who will come and instantly make everything better. It fits with our own judgments of who is in and out of the kingdom. Yet this kind of picture troubles me.
It troubles me because when God broke into our world God came in a defenseless baby, to parents who were ordinary, everday people. It troubles me because Jesus didn't hang out always with the righteous, but sinners. When he did hang out with the righteous it was always to expand their thinking. So shouldn't we read this in that expansive way? Wouldn't reading it in this way really require us to think more deeply about the text? Maybe even to have a convesation with God about the intent of a scripture like this?
I like the way Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it about looking at texts like this. God will hunt us down and take us when we are least aware. Isn't that what the Christmas story is all about? Isn't that what Jesus is saying here? We have no idea when God may break through and upset our whole way of thinking. The only way we can know is to be on the watch. It's to be in relationship with God.
In this season of preparation are we preparing for more than just a full Christmas tree? Do we talk on a regular basis with God? Are we watching and waiting, seeing the places that surprise us? Do we wrestle with the questions God puts before us in our life, or do we expect the magic genie to just make things better?
As I write this I'm thinking of all the stories of surprise surrounding this time of year. Amahl and the night visitors, a story about the flight to Egypt and gypsies and a bird, the legend of the magi and the star, a little drummer boy. All things which point out relationship with others, the breaking down off defenses, the surrendering to the sacred mystery. They are all done in relationship. Prepare your hearts and minds, so you will not be taken unawares. Dare to foster the relationship with Jesus, God come down, this season. You may find this the best preparation work you've done for the season and the greatest gift.