Friday, December 3, 2010

The Pessimists' Gospel

Every year my family attends the Christmas parade around the town square in Granbury, Texas. The parade is organized by the Granbury council of churches. The entries usually include the high school band, at least three fire trucks, Jeeps and Harley owners, and local churches. The church floats make up the majority of the parade. Every year, the theme is “Jesus, ...” like “Jesus, Light of the World.” This year it was “Jesus, The Prince of Peace.” Pretty much every float is a nativity scene every year. They just differ in how they adorn the trailers and pickup trucks. It feels like you are in a slightly more redneck version of a Norman Rockwell painting.
In Mark 12, Jesus tells a parable that kind of turns our hopeful picture of advent around. He speaks of a man who built a vineyard and hired others to tend to it. When the man sent servants to collect from those working the vineyard, the renters beat and killed his servants. He finally sent his son, whom they also beat and killed. At the end of the parable, the listeners knew exactly what Jesus was talking about. They knew that Jesus was describing the way in which these Jewish leaders had persecuted men of God.
When viewed in this light, God sending his son seems to have been both exalting and embarrassing for the human race. It was embarrassing because they just could not right the ship themselves. I can imagine it like an 8 year-old boy helping his dad fix the car. If his dad asked him to hold a screw, he might feel very sad and insecure when he had to tell his dad he could not do it. 
Jesus came and exposed their weaknesses. We rejoice because we know it needed to be done, but I can see how they would be upset and defensive. The light of the world does not just shine on nativity scenes, parades, and church services. Jesus also shines in dark alleys, battlefields, and bedrooms.

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