I have observed that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who think there are two kinds of people and people who do not. It is in our very nature to divide between us and them, winners and losers, insiders and outsiders, State and Carolina, ECU and any ACC or instate school, rich and poor, those born below the Mason-Dixon line and those born above the line, etc. (help me out with your divisions of the world). Just one more observation, if you are worshiping with us on this one of the lowest attendance Sundays of the year, you are the ultimate insider.
(North Point Community Church outside of Atlanta does not have worship celebrations on the last Sunday of the year to give their 1000+ volunteers a break. When I brought this up with my staff they thought this would be a great model to follow, but others disagreed. Most of the dyed in the wool Christians I know consider cancelling Sunday worship a heresy, excepting for snow or others “acts of God.” I mean if its Sunday then we are … playing some football right?)
I bring this to our attention because most the lessons about Jesus’ birth are about establishing his insider status among God’s chosen sons and daughters. The “Scandal of Particularity” is that God became flesh and blood and moved into the backwater towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth, in the backwater province of Judea on the edge of the mighty Roman empire. If God were planning to transform the whole world (see John 3:16, “for God so loved the world …), then the plan seems inverted. Wouldn’t have made sense to have God’s child show up in Rome and born within the emperor’s lineage? If God is going to transform the world, don’t we need the assistance of those insiders on Wall Street (financiers), Pennsylvania Avenue (politicians), and certainly K Street (lobbyists)?
This was brought back to mind this week, when Leonard Sweet’s text message came across my phone’s screen this week. Len’s tweet was “Where are the Wise Men? Are they disappearing from Xmas story? Particularity=Jewish Messiah. Magi open us to Universality: Savior of World.” That’s right I thought, without the Magi (and the shepherds) we outsiders do not have a chance at this flesh and blood Savior born among us.