Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Cast of Christmas: King vs. King

It's the part of the Christmas story no one ever talks about. Everybody loves the angels. Everybody loves the shepherds. Everybody loves the happy family 'round the manger. People even like the wise men. But nobody likes the king and his soldiers. I've never seen a Christmas card with butchery on the front of it. But our unease and discomfort doesn't stop Herod from barking his orders. It doesn't stop the weary soldiers from marching the four miles from his Herodium to David's sleepy hometown. It doesn't stop them from barging through the gates and smashing down the doors. It doesn't stop them from roughing up the locals as they hunt, house to house, for any toddler and infant boys, and putting them to the sword. Bethlehem wasn't a large town – there can't have been more than twenty. But from Bethlehem, the soldiers spread to all the neighboring villages, repeating the same. I wonder if, in the year after they saw the angels, any of the shepherds and their wives welcomed a son into their home. I wonder if any of them were bereaved in the belated aftermath of the heavenly song. But peace on earth was never popular with tyrants like Herod.

No, the Massacre of the Innocents is hardly anyone's favorite scene in the Christmas story. But there it is. And Herod is hardly anyone's favorite character, nor should he be. But there he is. Over the past six weeks, we've met seemingly all the cast of Christmas – we've given our listening ear to the stories of Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the prophets, the wise men. But now we meet the one we're not sure we want to meet. How many of us really know much about Herod, after all? Why did Herod do what he did? What's his story?

Once upon a time, things were not looking good for the Jewish people. They were under the thumb of a Syrian king, who tried to ban Judaism and force the Jews to worship false gods. He even desecrated the temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing a pig to the Greek god Zeus in it. A band of brothers, sons of the priest Mattathias, led a rebellion, gained independence, and purified the temple – that's what Hanukkah celebrates. One of those brothers, Simon, was appointed not only high priest but also the Jewish leader. In 135 BC, Simon was assassinated, and his son John Hyrcanus stepped up. In the coming decades, John raised an army to conquer several small territories nearby – including Idumea. Idumea was home to the Edomites, descendants of Jacob's brother Esau from long ago. John forced them to convert and become Jews.

During the reign of John's son Alexander Jonathan, an Idumean named Antipater rose to become the governor of his home province. Antipater was a clever man – he exploited tension between Alexander's sons Hyrcanus and Aristobulus. In 63 BC, when a Roman general named Pompey took over the area, he confirmed Hyrcanus as high priest – but not as king. Instead, he appointed the ingratiating Antipater as a local civil authority for Judea. Sixteen years later, when Pompey went to war against his former friend Julius Caesar, Antipater switched sides, came to Caesar's rescue with three thousand men, and was rewarded handsomely. Antipater was able to appoint two of his own sons as governors – a son named Phasael became governor of Jerusalem, and for a governor of Galilee, Antipater picked his other son: Herod.

Herod was about twenty-six years old at the time, and he was a young man with a hard disposition and a quick temper. A band of robbers was harassing the area, so Herod had them apprehended and put to death without so much as a trial. The Sanhedrin, the council that enforced Jewish law, summoned Herod to be put on trial himself. He showed up armed with soldiers, hinting that any verdict against him would lead to a massacre. He then left the city, and only his father and brother could stem his temper from waging war on the high priest Hyrcanus.

Herod was about my age when his father Antipater died. Julius Caesar had been assassinated just a year before, and Mark Antony was seeing the Egyptian queen Cleopatra and running the show. When Hyrcanus was ousted by his own nephew Antigonus, Herod traveled to Rome, and thanks to some well-placed bribes to Mark Antony and the Senate, bought the title of “King of the Jews.” Herod came home and waged war for three years against Antigonus. During those three years, he banished his own wife Doris, and his son Antipater, so that he could marry Hyrcanus' granddaughter, a gorgeous princess named Mariamne. Around 37 BC, Herod and some Roman help recaptured Jerusalem. Soon the holy city understood why Herod was feared – he kept executing former rebels and demanding more and more treasure to line his pockets.

His new bride had a teenage brother named Aristobulus, a handsome young man who became high priest; but less than a year after his appointment, Herod was so afraid that Mark Antony would like him better and make him king, that Herod arranged for Aristobulus to 'accidentally' drown in a shallow swimming pool. Mariamne soon learned that her beauty made Herod insane with jealousy – whenever he went away, he left orders that she be killed if he died, so that no one could have her after him.

Four years after Aristobulus' death, Roman power struggles left Antony and Cleopatra dead and Julius Caesar's nephew Octavian on the throne as the Emperor Augustus. After gaining his favor, Herod was free to continue ruling in his usual way. The next year, he accused his wife's grandfather Hyrcanus of treason for allegedly bribing the Arabian governor – and had Hyrcanus executed. The year after that, in a fit of jealous rage, Herod ordered his own wife's execution. After her death, he became inflamed with a distemper, with sharp headaches driving him mad. His wife's mother Alexandra, Hyrcanus' daughter, declared Herod mentally unfit to rule and tried proclaiming herself queen; it didn't exactly help her life expectancy.

The next year, Herod had his sister's husband Kostobar executed as well, along with some others. It was around this time that he started spending big bucks on building projects, including Roman-style theaters in Jerusalem and sponsoring athletic games that included nude wrestling. Some local Jews were not happy, and tried to spark a revolt. But Herod's spy uncovered them, and they were tortured to death. When his spy was killed, Herod tracked down the killers and executed them – and their whole families.

In a bid to regain popularity, Herod curried favor with the people by feeding them during the famine of 25 BC. Around that time, he appointed Simon Boethus as high priest so he could marry the man's daughter – also named Mariamne. Herod rebuilt Samaria, founded the port city of Caesarea, and went on a marrying spree that included a Samaritan woman, a number of others, and even a couple of his nieces – he ended up with nine wives in all.

Herod ruled with a heavy hand, commissioning a secret police to put the whole land under surveillance and harshly punish any critics of his rule. Herod demanded that all people take an oath of loyalty to his government. But to establish his Jewish credentials, around the year 20 BC he commissioned his most daring building project: to expand the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem and make the temple more impressive than ever. And during his travels out of the country, he positioned himself as a defender of the freedoms of Jewish communities everywhere.

All this was expensive, and reportedly he tried to replenish his resources by actually robbing the tombs of David and Solomon. Around that time, family intrigue started spinning out of control in his home, with relatives all jockeying for power. By this time well into his sixties, Herod was becoming increasingly self-conscious about his age, reportedly dying his hair to look younger, and he descended ever deeper into paranoia. In 7 BC, after years of suspicions about their scheming, he had two of his own sons put to death. The next year, he began persecuting a Jewish movement that refused to pledge their loyalties to Rome and had the gall to prophesy the coming end of his reign. That movement was a sect known as the Pharisees.

Herod grew older and sicker. He divorced the high priest's daughter and removed him from office. In 5 BC, again paranoid about being overthrown, he had his eldest son Antipater put on trial and thrown in prison, and changed his will. The next year, a pair of leading Pharisees urged a crowd to tear down a pair of golden eagles that Herod had placed in front of the temple. Herod had the perpetrators all burned alive. But Herod's sickness grew stronger – he had a burning fever, constantly hungry and in pain throughout his body, developed gangrene, sprung a leak. On his deathbed, he knew he was an unpopular king, and so he gave the orders for all the prominent Jewish leaders to be brought to Jericho and shut up in the hippodrome there. Herod gave orders that, as soon as he died, soldiers were to massacre everyone the Jews loved, so that the day he died would be a day of sadness and not celebration for the people. His final act was to have his imprisoned son Antipater put to death. Herod himself died five days later, thankfully without the carnage he'd intended.

Herod's career was full of political maneuvering and lofty building projects, including work not just on God's temple but the erection of temples to pagan gods like Apollo. He postured as a defender of Jewish rights abroad but had no qualms about repression at home that would have done the Soviets proud. His appetites for gold and for women ran away with him, and his impulsive temper and ever-expanding paranoia led to unspeakable bursts of violence during the years of his rule – though Herod probably would have just prided himself for being tough on crime and acting in political self-defense.

During those last fever-ridden years of his life, perhaps a year or two after he had two of his own sons put to death and maybe at or shortly before the time he was putting his heir Antipater on trial, a diplomatic mission from the Parthian Empire arrived, with astrologers saying they'd seen portents indicating that a real King of the Jews was on the scene now – someone who would rule by birthright, and not simply by bribing his way into it as Herod did. With Herod constantly paranoid about being replaced even by his own children, it's no wonder we read that “when Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3). All Jerusalem was getting used to the consequences of Herod feeling troubled!

Knowing the story of Herod's life, it's hardly out of character for him to try manipulating the wise men into finding this troublesome new rival for him. Herod never intended to “come and worship him” like he said (Matthew 2:8). If there's one talent Herod perfected since the days he was governor of Galilee, it was lying to conceal his real intentions. And when the wise men foil his plot, it's hardly out of character for Herod to be “furious” and to order the slaughter of any possible candidates (Matthew 2:16). This was the sort of thing Herod did all the time, really – from a worldly point of view, this one little act of cruelty was small potatoes.

Nothing Matthew tells us about Herod is out of character. Anyone who remembered the Herod years would nod sadly along with everything Matthew reports. Of course Herod would try trickery. Of course Herod would be upset when it failed. Of course Herod, ever crafty but ever impulsive, would be thrown into a paranoid tizzy by the thought of anyone else becoming king in his place. So the Massacre of the Innocents is hardly unexpected. It's just the sort of thing tyrants past their prime do: lash out petulantly in their perpetual insecurity. Of course the so-called “King of the Jews” would become like the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph, and of course a new Joseph would have to flee to Egypt to protect his son from the new Pharaoh in Judea. The exodus story gets turned on its head. To have a man like Herod wearing a crown and commanding armies is a dangerous thing.

And yet the world is full of Herods whom we gladly crown. There are so many things we tend to exalt as kings in our lives. You see it in the political arena, of course. We've had our share of presidents, legislators, and judges who seem to live by Herod's code. But in our lives, there are things we crown – ideas, ideals, goals, forces, people, desires. And it plays out just as well as the Herodian administration of the first century BC. What happens when we crown a Herod in our lives? Herod spirals out of control – constantly demanding more from us, more from other people, constantly demanding that everything and everyone be subjected to and controlled by it, always consuming and abusing, until finally the things that are most tender and precious to God become broken and harmed.

In America today, we treasure our independence, our individual right to be a law unto ourselves, to abolish the restrictions telling us what we can and can't do. We cherish our freedom to be masters of our own fate and our own bodies. And what do we see? That freedom spirals out of control until it reaches the clinic, where the Massacre of the Innocent Children happens all over again. That's Herod right there. But we're the ones who crowned him in the first place; what did we expect? Or, again, we treasure our passions, our feelings of love and desire; we have to follow our hearts, we say, and do whatever they pine for. We've crowned the little Herod in each of us. So it's no surprise when a string of broken homes stands in his wake, and when we learn not to trust each other anymore. That's Herod right there. We crowned him; what did we expect? Or try this: we treasure our sense of honor and standing – maybe in the town, maybe in the home, maybe in the church – and so we let our thirst for respect and status run rampant over those around us. We become protective of our sense of who we are, and step by step we become willing to put others down, even tear the church down, for the sake of it. You've no doubt seen things like that happen. That's Herod right there. What did we expect when we crowned him?

Examples could be multiplied 'til Monday morning. But so often, in our lives, we crown Herod as king – any created reality we choose to feed and heed, anything we allow to rule us – including ourselves – that runs the risk of consuming and abusing what really matters. It can be a hobby. It can be a relationship. It can be a value or an ideal. It can be a family member. It can be a behavioral dynamic. It can be a desire, a passion, an agenda, an idea. It can be some aspect of yourself. It can be something that, without a crown, might lead a fine life. But put a crown on its head, and you can expect nothing less than a repeat of the story of Herod – and sooner or later, something innocent will be sacrificed in its name.

But Herod isn't the only king in this story. That's actually rather the point. Herod was the so-called “king of the Jews” – a title bought from foreign oppressors for cold hard cash – but there's someone else in the cast of the Christmas story who is born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). And he isn't just in the cast; he's the star of the show. Herod has one way of being king, but this child born in Bethlehem has another. Herod is old, sickly, and insecure. But this king is both ancient and newborn – ancient in his divinity, infant in his humanity. He has no insecurity in him. Herod's rule is full of political schemes, constantly lying and distorting reality to manipulate others. But this other king, this Jesus, never manipulates and never lies; he just is the Truth (John 14:6).

Herod built so much during his reign. I'm sure many people were glad for it. In fact, a lot of the things people go over to the Holy Land to see as tourists, are the things Herod built. Herod built a lot. In fact, he built too much. He tried to build both God's temple and demon temples. He tried to honor God's law while promoting blasphemy. He tried to play both sides. But this king born in Bethlehem builds only one thing: “On this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). And the church he built is so much more beautiful than the temples and theaters and fortresses of Herod, and we don't have to travel far away to see it in action.

Herod married many women. He was an abusive and controlling husband. He exploited his wives as pawns; he craved their beauty as an object; he wanted to keep them under lock and key; he wielded death and danger as a weapon even in his own home. He was the opposite of all a man should be. Herod collected wives like trophies, and his jealousies raged between passionate desire and bitter hatred. But this king born in Bethlehem cherishes a single Bride: “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her … without spot or wrinkle … holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). He has eyes for no other. He leads by gentle love, not an iron fist.

Herod was paranoid, and he craved power, he clutched after power, and he resorted freely to brutal violence to keep it; one early Jewish historian called him “a stranger to humanity” because of his animalistic cruelty. As a result, many lives were lost, freely sacrificed to Herod's ambitions, his appetites, or simply the unrestrained impulses of his hot temper. Herod lived by the sword; he ruled with repression and violence. But this king born in Bethlehem never did any violence. He lived gently, he pursued justice with the word of God and not with swords, and in the end he offered himself up to be sacrificed by the violent for the sake of others, to bring an end to violence. The prophets saw long ago that “he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:9). No one could credibly say that about King Herod. But no one could credibly deny it about King Jesus.

We see, over and over again, what happens when we give the crown to Herod. And yet we keep doing it. We resist the real rule of a real alternative. We keep crowning a succession of Herods, and the results are hardly unexpected. But perhaps it's time to cast all these crowns at the feet of another king – this one called Jesus. What would your life look like if you withheld crowns from all your Herods and gave them to Jesus instead? Which king will you crown? Which king will you imitate? “Choose you this day...” (Joshua 24:15).

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Cast of Christmas: Sages

They gazed, I have to imagine, with intense curiosity toward the night sky, captivated by what they saw. This was no ordinary night. The constellations, the planets, the heavenly bodies were all in line to speak mysteries to them. Beneath the velvet heavens, a fire worshipfully crackled and spat before their feet. Normally, the Magi would be torn between the two: the truth defended and revealed by fire, or the potent influence of the skies. But tonight there was no contest. The Magi served in the Parthian court, a class of advisors, diplomats, even priests. They were, oftentimes, astrologers; they were, at times, arcane occultists. Some in the west called them magicians, conjurers. But this band of Magi saw themselves as scholars – researchers of the heavens and the earth, deep thinkers, meditating on the lore of the past and the shadowy shimmerings of the future, using all their ritual and intellectual skill, their wisdom and their studies, to quest after the secrets beneath water and flame, the script of spirits in the skies. They longed to serve truth rather than deception. And they were loyal to the rulers of Persia, and served in the king's court, as their distant grandfathers had served King Darius long ago, in the days of a troublesome rival 'wise man' called Daniel.

But their minds that night were not fixed on trivia of history, but on the sign in the sky. To astrologers like the Magi, it was a message as clear as a book. A king was born in the west, a great king, a king worthy of respect and honor, a fitting recipient of a diplomatic mission to whatever palace housed the young one. But the sign in the sky said nothing about Rome; it indicated the land of the Jews, the kinsmen of that Daniel. The Magi recalled that the fathers and their fathers' fathers had seen signs in the fire, telling them of the birth of a perilous king, a conqueror out of Greece named Alexander – and they had been right. That was a bold sign.

But looking at the sky that night... this band of Magi couldn't help but wonder... Newly born, and already with the proof of kingship? Could this king be the final king, the one spoken of in the texts they'd studied? Could this be the One Who Brings Benefit? The one promised to come and raise the dead, promised to come defeat the armies of evil, promised to come burn wickedness from the earth in a trial by fire, promised to make the world wonderful at last? Could this king be the Savior written of in the books?

After thorough deliberations, after investigating all other possible meanings, the Magi confirmed their hope. In the morning, when the court assembled, they surely brought their petition before Farhad, shah of shahs, a cruel man and yet a weak king, debased before Rome on account of his scheming Italian wife. Nonetheless, he gave them their desired commission: a diplomatic mission, with riches from the court treasury, toward the province of the Jews in the land of the Romans, to seek out this king. Perhaps this newborn king would answer their questions. Perhaps this newborn king would teach them some valuable wisdom. Perhaps this newborn king would bring them benefit after all, and show them how to be “redeemed from their mortality.” And so, thanking the Wise Lord, they assembled a caravan and embarked toward where this 'star' steered them. Surely by this, they thought, the Wise Lord would make them wise.

And aren't we all looking for the same thing? To be made wise, and know our way around this world? To have our questions answered? To see evil defeated and justice vindicated? To be relieved from death and redeemed from mortality? To see the world made pure and beautiful, and to enjoy that benefit and salvation ourselves? The Magi were many things, and it isn't surprising our Bible translations these days often refer to them as 'wise men' – after all, they were scholars from the east, devoted to truth and the service of a God whom they knew as the 'Wise Lord.' Throughout the centuries before and after their day, there have been many 'wise men' looking for real understanding, trying to unravel the universe or stand in awe of its bare-faced mysteries – the likes of Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, Zoroaster, Buddha, Nagarjuna, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hume, Camus, and vastly more. Many of them left behind records of their thoughts and reflections as they tried to love wisdom – and there are some valuable books there.

We may not write the books of wise men, but we ask the same questions that have animated those philosophers: What's the world like, deep down at the bottom? How does it work? What am I, and what am I for? How do we know those things? How much do we know, and how much can we know? What is truth, anyway? Are these things, these ideas, going anywhere? In light of all that, how should we be living? Some of us have more personal questions, questions about how to balance our desires, how to find health amid the chaos, how to face the confusion and the noise. In the end, we want to know: How do we find, and how do we get to, what it's all about? How do we answer the questions, and how do we reach what we're looking for? And I'd like to suggest this morning that following in the footsteps of this band of Magi might be helpful to us after all.

First, the Magi followed the star. When they reached Jerusalem, they said, “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). For the Magi, this 'star' was a sign in the sky. It was God acting in nature to speak their language. Theirs was a flawed idiom; astrology was, and is, a load of bunk, a big bushel of road apples. The Magi were pagans – but God stooped to speak in a way these pagans could understand, with a sign. They merely took note of what they could already discern with what they already knew and understood. For us, the evident signs God leaves us might include cosmic wonder, purposive order, moral obligation, and human dignity.1 They might include the canvas painted at a sunset or the intricacy of a flower on a spring morning; might include the clear hand of Providence in history; might include the unshakeable call toward something greater, something truer, something more just and right; might include the many forms and specks of truth in what we already accept and admit even before we've met the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth. But the Magi learned that what Daniel taught was true, that there is a God in heaven who “gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who understand” (Daniel 2:21). God placed his sign in the sky for the Magi, so that those who studied could understand its meaning; God has placed his many signs throughout the world, pointing us the same place, for every star “proclaims the work of his hands,” every star “pours forth speech” and “reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2).

Second, the Magi learned that the star didn't tell them the whole story. It sent them, first, to Jerusalem; but once there, they had assumed they would find this newborn king, the one who, unlike the Roman appointee Herod, had been born king of the Jews,” in a palace there. They had no inkling of elsewhere, 'til Herod asked the priests and scribes to fill in the blanks from the special revelation of God through his prophets, pointing toward the Judean town of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5-6). The star was a valuable sign to pagans on a quest for wisdom, but it couldn't get them the full way. God's signs in nature, God's impressions on our reasoning powers, all our many ideas and speculations, our experiments of trial and error, our thoughts and reflections – they may well get us part way, but there's further to go. We need God to explain in scripture what we're missing. The stars may proclaim God's handiwork and reveal knowledge, but “the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making the simple wise” (Psalm 19:7). And that's the next step.

Third, the Magi – unlike Herod's priests and scribes – actually took action. The scribes knew where to find the Messiah, but they didn't go to him. But the Magi put on their boots and their hats and headed out the door. The search for wisdom didn't begin and end in their armchairs back in Persia, or their laboratories, their studies, their fire temples or homes. They weren't content to just know about where to go; they had to actually go there. So they followed the star to Judea, and they set out to follow the prophecy to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:9a). If we want to find the answers to our questions, the solutions to our problems, we have to do the same: we have to be actively responsive to God's signs and God's scriptures. And note that, after setting out for Bethlehem, the star didn't abandon them; now, equipped with special revelation, the star takes on a new meaning and leads them six miles south, to the very house where Mary and Joseph are living (Matthew 2:9b), letting them share the same “great joy” once announced by living stars to a band of perplexed shepherds some time earlier.

Fourth, by taking action on both the sign and the scripture, the Magi are blessed to encounter and recognize the Wisdom of God. They had gone in search of a newborn king. But they found, no mere king, but Christ. And we read that “Christ Jesus … became to us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30), because Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). When God's Wisdom personally cries out in the Book of Proverbs, talking about predating the depths and the mountains and the hills, the one speaking is Christ, the Wisdom of God. And the Magi meet him. They recognize who he is: that the God who gives wisdom to the wise had become, not just a God in heaven, but a God on earth, a God in Bethlehem. So they worship (Matthew 2:11a). They find in him a confirmation of everything true, everything good, everything beautiful in what they had already learned in their studies and their lives; but they discover in him a world larger, stranger, brighter than they ever dreamed. All because they entered the House of Wisdom, and found “a Savior, who is Christ the [Wise] Lord” (Luke 2:11), the Wisdom of God made flesh (John 1:14). And they no longer encounter wisdom as a distant and impersonal thing in the pages of books, nor as a mystic force underlying the elements, nor as a far-off divinity; they meet Wisdom face-to-face, in flesh and blood, at the climax of their quest. So do we, as we take our questions and problems on a quest that inevitably leads us to meet the Wisdom of God in Christ.

Fifth, “opening their treasures, they offered him gifts: gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11b). The Magi came as a diplomatic mission, with treasures to bring – which all proved so small, one should think, in the light of Wisdom. But they offered it anyway, not just a tribute to a king, but submerging the best they had, the best they could give, into the life of Wisdom. They took their treasure, and they devoted it to Wisdom.

Having done that, sixth, “they departed to their own country by another way” (Matthew 2:12). Not only did they take a new route, but they went as new Magi, new wise men, new people, new lives. Having encountered Wisdom and placed all their gifts into him, things could never be the same again. They had met the Sufficient Reason, the First Cause, the Unity, the Supreme Good... the Way, the Truth, the Life. They had held hands with the Answer; they had brushed the Solution's hair; they had kissed the feet of the Logic of God, by whom and for whom all things exist, and by whom the world is being made wonderful, though the new creation be born in labor pains (cf. Romans 8:21-25).

In tracing the same path as these ancient 'wise men,' in acting on the signs and scriptures that point us here, we have the opportunity to encounter the Wisdom of God in person. And we bring him our gifts – gifts, not today of gold or frankincense or myrrh, but of the product of grain and grapes. But the gifts we render to Wisdom, to Christ, he renders back to us, transformed, into something else, something higher and more transcendent than all the stars, something more mysterious than all puzzles but more reassuring than all resolutions.

At this table, he offers us a taste of redemption from mortality, into the Best Truth of a world made wonderful. And Wisdom has built this house and cries out, “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight” (Proverbs 9:5-6). Whatever your questions, whatever your problems, whatever your opinions and your reflections, come to the cradle, come to the table today; you need follow no distant omen or encrypted clue to get here, for there is no more uncertainty about where to get wisdom, where to find Christ. He is here. He is here. Let us have communion with Christ, the Wisdom of God. He is here.

1 - See C. Stephen Evans, Natural Signs and the Knowledge of God: A New Look at Theistic Arguments (Oxford University, 2012).