Wednesday, February 22, 2012

God Descends

There once were three men, all friends and fairly well off, but one more so than the other two.  It was the day before Christmas, and they were going home to see their families. 

The first man came to his house to find his wife crying out front about how they had been robbed.  He comforted her, telling her that God was still in control.  The second man was a bachelor, and he also arrived home to find that he had been robbed.  He immediately called the police and gave a full report, certain that the police would find and bring the thieves to justice.  The last man, and the richest, had a small family.  He returned home to find it untouched by misfortune.  He had invested in an expensive security system, and it had deterred the robbers.  He thanked God for blessing him with a family and the money to provide for them.

The next day, on Christmas, the three men were talking about what had happened.  They all had enough money to continue with Christmas, even though it wasn’t quite the same for the first two.  They discussed the meaning of the season, and all decided that it was comforting knowing God was in control.

As time went on, the robbers were never found.  The police did their best, but they couldn’t find any significant leads.  The first two men prayed fervently that God would help them through the rough times, and they did.  The rich man went on living normally, marveling at his good fortune.

In the end, the first man and his family recovered from their tragic Christmas and went on living in relative peace.  The bachelor, who had lost the least, quickly grew to be successful in his job, replacing all that was lost and more.  The last man eventually lost the most, having the great majority of his wealth invested in his real estate business, which went under during an economic downturn.

Years later, advanced in age, they discussed their lives.

“I wish I had anticipated the depression,” the previously rich man said.

“I wish I’d settled down and had a family,” the bachelor said.

“I guess I’m just glad God looked out for me all those years,” the first man said.

In the end, they all agreed God was sovereign and that life was good, a lesson well learned from a day so long ago.

So which man learned the meaning of Christmas?

God came to earth.

The idea is so simple, and yet holds such tremendous weight that it has managed to dominate the discussion of mankind for the better part of two millennia.

There is no other like him.  Jesus Christ.  Born of woman supposedly incapable of having any children because she lacked the necessary hardware; namely, sperm.  Yet the virgin trusted a deity who, if He revealed Himself to anyone fully, would kill them, and she went on to bear the child that would save the world.  And not just from bad days or bad years, but from eternity.  Jesus came so that we might have life, and this idea is dangerous.

So dangerous, in fact, that the king at the time, Herod, murdered thousands of children 0-2 years old to ensure that this child wouldn’t make it. 

If this was a movie, and you decided that for once, you were going to cheer for the bad guys (because they never win maybe, and you’re all about the underdog,) this would be an incredible moment.  Think about it.  You’re the bad guy.  The good guy sits in his impenetrable fortress all day and directs traffic from some place normal people can’t see.  And even if you could break into his fortress, fighting him would be like trying to throw rocks at the sun.  It would consume them and laugh. 

And then, to your great surprise, the fool decides to turn himself into a being that you normally enjoy pushing over with a stick.  What an idiot!  The impossible to kill good guy has suddenly made himself weak and frail, even to the point of a crying baby!  And he did it on purpose!  For a second you falter, wondering if this is a trick, but if it is, it’s too good to pass up.  You decide that he’s gotta go, because you’re never going to get another chance like this one.

As for God, what was he thinking?  He decides to come to earth, but instead of descending in some kind of hurricane followed by a firestorm, followed by three earthquakes and a volcano, (and maybe a few asteroids because…hey, he’s God,) he comes down and is born in a barn.  Not even an expensive one like the barns that held the kings horses, which were probably nicer than the houses of most Hebrew citizens. 

And then, who does he get to announce his presence?  He could hire out the locals and literally rain down gold on them, so they could deck themselves out like MIB and announce his birth through a first century rap music video, but no, he decides to have his message delivered by a bunch of crazy shepherds, who probably have about as much credibility as today’s UFO abducted hicks.

“Sure Jerubabel, we believe you.  I see angels all the time too.  In fact, I see one now, and she’s white and fluffy and has followed you down the mountain!”  Much ridicule of man and sheep relationships followed.

The people God uses to deliver his message of hope are almost all initially considered crazy and/or too poor to count.  Peter and his brother are fishermen.  John the Baptist, whom Jesus said there had not been any greater man born of woman, ran around surviving on bugs and honey.  Jesus himself, not considering equality with God something to be grasped, made himself nothing.  He came to die.  He came straight out of his citadel in heaven to live among men and bring them hope.  

God’s son.  The manifestation of all his glory in the form of a man named Jesus, came down to be born into trailer trash poverty, to people who couldn’t believe they were being used by an infinite God.  This is the message behind the birth:  That God loved his creation enough to send a part of Himself to die, in order that they might know Him.

Jesus came to earth.  God, a being we can’t even hope to fully understand here in three dimensions and possibly eternity because of WHO HE IS, put on the finite clothes of flesh and bone to deliver a message of hope to His people.  And he approached it like no other being before him.  He was not a conqueror like Caesar Augustus, or a writer like Homer.  He didn’t bring an end to physical suffering, but actually suffered himself.  He didn't come to be great, instead humbling himself until the Romans killed him, and yet somehow ended up the inheritor of all creation.  A carpenter.  A teacher.  A criminal.  Crucified with criminals.  This is Jesus.  And he came because he knew what we could not.

His dad.

In the end, this is our hope, that Jesus loved the Father with the type of ferocity that made the world tremble.  It was a love that redeemed creation.  This is the story we always want.  This is the yarn we spin into as many books and movies as we can.  We want a savior, and we want to be that savior.  Christ, as the firstborn of all creation, has made the ultimate sacrifice.  He's opened the door, and invited us to step through.  It means leaving behind the world and everything it offers.

And eternity is so worth the risk.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Soap Box

For the same reason I believe swear words like “dang” and “shoot” are pitiful attempts to veil an angry heart with “Christian” sounding appropriateness, I believe people’s disdain for video games (and other geek-related entertainment) is hypocrisy of a similar kind.

People love tolerance, except when it interferes with their ideals.  If my ideal is to have fun, then shoot man, I'll drink 'til I puke.  I’ll urinate on this sidewalk if I want to.  But if your ideal is to tolerate everyone, then God forbid you have to deal with someone who is openly intolerant.  I am a tolerant human being and proud of it.  And I love everything, especially nature.  Going outside brings me closer to God because nature is spectacular, and we all should love and care for…do you hear that?  What the hell is that sound?  My god!  Is someone banging on the fake drums of Rock Band?!

"Was I mistaken in thinking my outfit made this look cooler?"

Oh Rock Band...

Video games make for easy comedic fodder.  Most gaming nerds are imagined as tubs of lard drowning in potato chip grease, and who doesn’t love to make themselves feel better by ragging on the fat man?  As someone who loves to play Halo with my friends, I’d like to iterate that it’s entirely possible video games are a waste of time.  But seriously?  What’s with all the venom for those people who love to blow up some alien ass in the name of freedom?

While sitting around a picnic table one day with friends, I off-handedly mentioned that hobbies like biking, kayaking, or mountain climbing could easily be considered just as much a waste of time as videogames, and I got the “is he talking about infant cannibalism” look.  Now I realize that as the reader you might be asking yourself the same question, so let me explain.  Someone told me that these activities increase your well being, but who decided that the definition of well being was written by how many miles you’ve run?  I’d like to mention that just because your idea of “well being” involves some sort of holistic Oprah based approach, you aren’t necessarily right (also, how much do you have to run before it's "running?"  Until you breathe hard?)  Nerds, Rednecks, and doctors might disagree with you.  Are they wrong? 

I'm House, and your temperature tells me that  you have some rare, incurable disease called  hifalutinitis.

Now everyone knows a little exercise is good for you.  No one in America is suddenly falling over in shock due to that bit of information.  Gym class pretty much ensures this truth is humiliated into every kid in elementary school.  Get out there and walk around fatty.  Drink your milk and eat your vegetables.  This is so ingrained in the American psyche that we have thousands of books, schedules, infomercials, and ironically enough Wii and Kinect games to remind us of how guilty we should feel for avoiding it.  But somehow this has also translated to “if you don’t go outside all the time you’re worthless,” like the fourth installment of Indiana Jones, whose title I refuse to utter here.  

This might be an obvious overstatement, but I think most people subconsciously swear by this.  I’m not one to bash outside-going (especially since I love the outdoors,) but for those individuals who enjoy the inside activities, we’ve done them a disservice through our attitude of disgust for technology.  If your love is biking, go for it bro, I just don’t want to hear about how much healthier you are than me or how tight your bike shorts are.  I believe dropping 3000 bones on a used road bike is a little ludicrous, yet most people are happy to overlook a possibly unhealthy obsession because it improves your ability to move long distances under your own power…because screw cars and their stupid, cheating pedals.  An Xbox costs 300 dollars, and I can play with more than one person.  Just saying. 

Video games bring people together.  Laugh all you want, but it’s true.  World of Warcraft doesn’t care if you’re black, white, or a troll with an internet connection: it only cares if you are a good paladin with epic healing gear (I think—can’t say I’ve played this one.) 


I heard a sermon recently (that I liked) where, about half way through, the speaker faulted the Christian guy for not taking more initiative in pursuing women for marriage.  Women, therefore, are delaying marriage because men are dragging their feet, afraid of commitment.  Apparently it’s the man’s duty to ask the woman, like that’s been the cultural norm for thousands of years or something (sarcasm people, calm down.)  But what, do you suppose, was the disease he mentioned as being the primary cancer in marriage growth?  (Well to be fair, it was “fear of commitment,”) but if you guessed video games as the first symptom of that disease, you win!  Congratulations, if you are a fan of Zelda or Madden, you hate marriage.  Like the silly book readers of yore, constantly distracted from the real manly work, video games are a new, thinly veiled evil. 

The question shouldn’t be “how can we embarrass these nerds out of their unhealthy habit?”  It ought to be “can any hobby or pursuit escalate into a monstrous waste of resources?”  Absolutely.  It doesn’t matter where you start.  Anything you pursue can grow to become an old George Lucas; confused and soul-crushingly insane.

Oh George...