“I lift my eyes to the hills; from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth…” Ps. 121
My first pondering, two years ago, was on this scripture. Much has happened here, for us, for Bardsdale UMC, and for me, since then. Yet, every time I look at the hills (green this year again!) I think of this verse, and how God’s love sustains me. Even still.
In this world of violence and hardship, God’s love sustains us all. I preached about the “Slaughter of the Innocents,” and how violence, any violence, is not God’s doing. It is ours. It is our own damn fault. There is violence in the world because of our pride; our need to be right; our need to control; our need to be in charge. Same as in Jesus’ time. For example: the Wise-men’s pride made them figure out logically where to go, and who they’d find. I figure they lost sight of the star the minute they turned to their charts to plot and plan their trip: What shall we take? What kinds of food? Who will cook it? Who will set up and take down our tents? Where shall we keep our books? They went because, logically, a new born king would be in the palace in the Capital City. They probably went in the first place to secure their nations’ place in the hierarchy of their world; to secure political favor in the future.
They probably expected to find a child surrounded by nurse-maids, silk and satin, living in a palace surrounded by a pile of gifts. They must have lost sight of the star or they wouldn’t have gone to Jerusalem. They didn’t know that “God with us” would arrive to the people He’d heal, redeem and love: the poor, the marginalized, the weak, the sick, the troubled; the least, the last, the lost. They had no clue that our Lord would show Himself first to lowly shepherds, be the child of an unwed teen, or live his teaching/healing life as a homeless man. They had no idea he would die on a cross.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, Herod’s obsession with power and control had turned paranoid and vicious; he had just killed his first born son (in 4 BC, the same year Herod died). Herod had divorced that son’s mother to marry another, whom he killed (in 29 BC), along with her two sons (in 7 BC). All of those sons were young men. Herod was in constant pain with kidney trouble (scholars think). The people of Jerusalem were just recovering from Herod’s murderous anger, and had perhaps achieved a calm after the “storm.” And then this retinue of ?how many people? came with gifts for a new King! No wonder “When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him…”
God created the world as a place of peace and abundance: all ate green herbs and fruit with its seed in it. God walked with Adam and Eve (us) in the evening. All were friends; all were family. Then we decided to know what was going on, to make choices, to be in charge. And our working to be in charge, in control, is what allowed and allows the world be full of power-hungry, greedy, abusive, lonely, angry people. Our own pride and self-interest and wanting to be in charge, make this world so unlike the Garden that God set before us at the very beginning.
Yet God has never left us. And signs of God’s presence are everywhere. We can see it in the now green hills. We can see it in the stars that shine at night, in those same stars that shine in the day time, but we cannot see them. They need the darkness to be visible. Yes, we live in a dark world, though God is still with us. And in that darkness, God’s light shines; God’s love lives. It lives in green hills and the stars that shine whether we see them or not. God came to Earth as a little tiny baby, just as you and I did. And God knew about the greed and the struggle for power, as Christ. And He chose Love. Forgiveness. Family. Faith. Trust. Hope. When you look at the high, now green hills, know that God loves you, so much, that a Son was sent to redeem and heal us all. Amen.
Happy New Year.