Headlines from First Thoughts

Monday, February 11, 2008

Christmas Trees and Palm Branches

It seems sort of odd that we’re at the beginning of Lent. We’re still in the shadow of the manger, aren’t we? No sooner have we broken the Christmas toys, put up the Christmas tree, and taken our stuff to the neighborhood swap meet, than we’re watching Jesus try to ride into the city of Jerusalem on top of broken palm branches.

That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be this year, and I'm grateful that Matthew understands this. The first Gospel does not get past the magi's first toddler shower for Jesus until lives are disrupted by the shadow of suffering. The magi brought myrrh-- a burial ointment-- of all things for a baby present. Ominous. Foreboding. When Herod hears about Jesus, he takes his paranoia out on every 1 year old in the neighborhood. Joseph and Mary flee as the memories of the Hebrew matriarch Rachel gush forth in sorrow.

Matthew doesn’t let us get very far into the Christmas story without reminding us that the Christ child can only be understood from the perspective of God's suffering on the cross. So if Lent seems to come a little early, don't be surprised. In Matthew's world, the cross should loom large this close to Christmas.

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