The “fury” of Christmas

Joseph & Mary

For many of us, who have heard the story of Jesus’ birth several times every December every year of our lives, the message settles in to the realm of what is familiar and commonplace to us.  As such, we forget or miss the angst that filled the original event.

Consider the original Christmas from Joseph’s perspective.  He and Mary and their respective families had come to agreement on the details of their upcoming marriage.  Everything was in place.  Joseph was content and looking forward to the joining of his life with Mary’s and the beginning a family together.  Then he received word of a scandal.  He had not enjoyed sexual relations with Mary, but he found out that she is pregnant!

Over and over again, we have heard the words from Matthew 1:20 that upon hearing the news, Joseph “considered” what to do about Mary.  That sounds so calm.  The word in our common English translations sound so devoid of emotion.  It is so placid.

But not in the original language!

The Greek word in Matthew 1:20 that is so often translated as “considered” is enthumathentos.  It comes from the combination of two Greek words: en, meaning “in” or “with,” and thumos, meaning “anger,” “fury,” rage,” or “intense feeling.”

The man who found out that his wife-to-be was pregnant with someone (or Someone) else’s baby did not calmly and emotionlessly think this over.  He stormed internally.  The emotions in him erupted with fury, rage, and anger.

This little-recognized fact about the birth of Jesus gets me thinking…. Isn’t that actually the very nature of Christmas?

The entrance of God into our world as a baby who is placed in a manger is not a calm, placid, commonplace, boring, emotionless event.  It is shocking, confusing, scandalous, unsettling!  It shakes our world to its foundations.  It ought to make us question all of our previous understandings.  If we understand accurately even a bit of the miracle of God being born as one of us, the shock of it would overwhelm our souls!

St. Augustine commented, “Man’s Maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on his journey; that Truth might be accused by false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might be wounded; that Life might die.”

What happened at Christmas was not commonplace but was the most shocking and unsettling event of history (at least until the death and resurrection of the One who was God-in-human skin)!

Then I get to thinking of one more curiosity…. The entrance of God into our hearts is, also, not a calm, placid, commonplace, boring, emotionless event.  It is shocking, confusing, scandalous, unsettling!  It shakes our world to its foundations.  It ought to make us question all of our previous understandings.  If we understand accurately even a bit of the miracle of God coming to live inside of a human soul—my soul and your soul—the shock of it would overwhelm us!

Larry Crabb puts it this way: “What I’m about to say is either a bunch of sweet words that have as much nourishing value as a Twinkie, or it’s one of the most staggering and underappreciated truths in the Bible.  Here it is: In the center of your soul and mine, in the exact center, the Shekhinah glory resides—the literal, real, overwhelming presence of God!” (The PAPA Prayer, p. 123)

The birth of Jesus—into the world and into our hearts—is shocking and life-altering!

 

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