power

The Villains of Christmas: Herod

The Villains of Christmas: Herod

Christmastime is here. It’s a time for joy and generosity and hope and celebration. But Christmas is not without its threats. Over the next four weeks we will consider four villains of Christmas. The name of the first villain is King Herod. King Herod exemplifies power. The yearning for power in our own hearts threatens our experience of Christmas.

Herod was the villain at the first Christmas. He was a politician’s politician. He was oily and underhanded, vicious and cold-hearted. Born in 73 BC, Herod rose to power quickly (in his mid-twenties) by maneuvering his way through the Roman political machine and given the title “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate.[i] Upon rising to power, Herod decimated anyone who might be his rival, including three of his sons and his first wife, Mariamne.

Herod’s paranoia served him well and allowed him to rule for 37 years—far longer than most. His political savvy extended well past his paranoia. A half-Jew himself, Herod was a master of alliances, eventually taking ten wives, each gaining him a strategic political advantage. And he knew the power of tangible change. Herod took on massive building projects throughout Judea including the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima, the Second Temple, the fortress at Masada, and Herodium. Many of these can still be seen in Israel today. In fact, most beautiful ancient buildings that remain are Herod’s handiwork. To fund these projects, Herod levied massive taxes on the people that created animus between him and the people (and also helps us understand just how hated the tax collectors we meet in the Bible were).

One day in the final years of Herod’s life, a group of Magi from the East requested an audience with Herod.

A Laughing Marriage

A Laughing Marriage

Angel and I laugh a lot. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at each other. We laugh at life.

From time to time our family plays a game at our home where we each try to make up jokes on the spot. Angel’s nonsensical jokes are always the best. “What is faster than a cheetah and reads the Bible?” We prod for answers and then finally give up. “A nun.” The kids erupt in laughter although it doesn’t make any sense.

Outside of spiritual disciplines, I don’t think there is anything more important to the health of our marriage than laughter.  

And I’m not so sure that laughter isn’t spiritual. Here are five reasons I think laughter is a spiritual discipline:

Playing God by Andy Crouch

Playing God by Andy Crouch

There is a strange dissonance today. In a time where we embrace conversations about developing our leadership and influence, we are allergic to power. Andy Crouch wants us to have an honest conversation about power and recognize that it is a gift given by God and “rooted in creation… intimately tied to image bearing.”

The oft-quoted Lord Acton quote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” shows our distrust of power (the fact that we usually drop the “tends to” in the quote shows our hand even more. We are cynical about power. But we typically define power too narrowly, in ways that exempts us from possessing it. But that is false.

What is power? “Power is simply (and not so simply) the ability to participate in that stuff-making sense-making process that is the most distinctive thing that human beings do.” We ought not flinch, then, from owning up to the fact that we all have power. In fact, if we did not have power, even our purest impulses for love and justice would be impotent (the word itself meaning “without power”).

And we serve a God who we worship, in part, because he is all-powerful. If God was not omnipotent, he would “not be a God worth worshiping,” unable to bring justice. The question, then, is how to we steward our God-reflecting power well? How are we leveraging our power for justice? How are we creating margins in our power in Sabbath? And how are we leaning into institutions which utilize power in holy ways and chasten our desire to play god?