Thursday, December 25, 2008

arequipa shadows

the sun seems to do things to arequipa i've not seen anywhere else. maybe i just haven't been enough places...

Thursday, December 11, 2008


But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times

He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be their peace. (Mic 5.2ff )

Bethlehem: "house of bread". Bread: simple, common everyday food. Bread to fill your stomach when you are hungry; bread to give you strength when you are weak. Bread permeated with yeast, and yeast the symbol of sin. And in the house of bread, would be born the Bread from heaven itself. The Messiah who would fill our hungry souls and strengthen our spirits when we have no strength. But this only because he would take on all our sin; a stable-born king who left his riches and became poor for our sakes, so that we through his poverty might become rich.

Bread for life; yeast for sin and death. Richest of Kings born stable-poor. Sinful man loved by him who knew no sin. He dies; we live.


Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem only to find that the one place that lodged travelers was full. People must have been there from all over because of this census. No room anywhere. And Mary’s labor had started. Bad timing any way you look at it. So they were given a corner in a stable. Open to the world. Dirty straw instead of a bed. The annoying intrusion of animals. Far away from home. No family or friends to help. Something was surely wrong somewhere. How could the King of the Universe be born in a stable? The Messiah – the long awaited Deliverer, the One promised throughout the ages by the prophets, has only a feed trough for a crib?! Didn’t God himself send an angel to announce his coming? But not this way. THIS is hardly the kind of birth that should attend royalty. It makes no sense.

But then throughout history God so often did things that boggled the mind. Didn’t he back Moses and his people up against the sea with no way of escape when the Egyptian army came in to annihilate them? Quite a poor battle plan. But then he did something else totally unexpected: he opened the sea and led his people across dry land. And when Gideon had 10,000 troops at his disposal to attack the Midianites, didn’t God tell him to send all but 300 away? Bad strategy. But with those 300 God delivered the Midianites into his hand. And here in this very town hundreds of years earlier, didn’t God choose a shepherd boy to be King over the nation, one not even the prophet Samuel would have picked? And yet this was one whose heart beat for God and from his line would come One whose kingdom would never end.

So much that just doesn’t fit our expectations. But then our God is a God of paradoxes. His ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. It’s THAT – the difference – that sets the stage for our amazement and awe at what he does. That the King should be born in a stable? Yes, on second thought, this too might bear the fingerprints of God.