"Y’all?!" as we say here in the south.
That word (sic) is funny because you non-Southerners think it just means, "you-all", a sort of red-neck "you-plural". But it’s such a much more versatile word. As in this case, it doesn’t just mean, "all of you": it can mean "what exactly is wrong with all of you." It’s an interjection.
"Y’all?! Do I have to write all the posts about Christmas around here?"
I recycled my series on our joy because of God’s wrath over at Evangel this year because obviously, those people needed to hear it. For those of you who missed it when I posted it originally, you can read through it without having to read the other stuff which may get you off your egg nog by chasing that link.
I will also have posted the traditional "6-part harmony" at Evangel this year (the link won’t work until 24 Dec 2009 around 0600 US-Eastern time), which you have also seen before.
"Yeah, cent: we’ve been meaning to talk to you about that," comes the very concerned and troubled brethren. "You seem to have sort of chummed up with those Colsonesque wobblies over there, and your total blogging in other venues has dropped off radically. Especially here. And what puzzles us most, dear brother, is that while you didn’t sign the MD, you are willing to co-bloggitate with all manner of theological canoodlers at Evangel."
After a long and solemn pause, the question comes, "What gives?"
Yeah, first of all, the canoodlers over there don’t like my brand of blogging any better than they ever did, as you can see by the strange alliance of people lining up behind Mark Olson to tell me my Gospel isn’t big enough.
Yeah, I know: don’t laugh at them. They’re serious.
But this is actually a post about Christmas, so I’m going to see your intervention and raise you the hot toddy of the season.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and we have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:I know: this is post-Christmas scripture, if we ever cover it at all. It’s the part that leads to feast days and icons and other sorts of gift-giving and something which may or may not look like Santa but which avoids the jolly fat man.
"'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'"
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
But it is something we should consider seriously, and solemnly, and with a good bit of self-incrimination.
Now, what is east of Jerusalem? That is: for Matthew, the Jew, who is writing to his fellow sons of Abraham, what is east of Jerusalem?
In one sense, there’s nothing: there’s not a blessed thing east of Jerusalem after the Sea of Galilee which any self-respecting Israelite would care to mention.
But on the other hand, there is a massive piece of Jewish history east of Jerusalem: Babylon, and the Medio-Persians. It’s the place they lived in exile for 70 years. It’s the place of the nation’s punishment for being completely non-plussed by YHVH and completely gaga over the other nations and their gods. It’s the place where Daniel was among the highest of the rulers of the kingdom, but where he didn’t let it go to his head (or his mouth).
And from there, wise men came to Jerusalem. But not only that, they came to worship the king of the Jews – "he who has been born king of the Jews". That little quotation there deserves its own post, but this is the day before the day before Christmas – we don’t have a lot of time for nuance. It looks like Matthew is saying, "it’s sorta obvious that Jesus was amazing because even the Persians were sending guys in to see him."
And these guys came in publicly. They were walking around Jerusalem asking people, "Have you seen the one who was born the king of the Jews? We’ve come to worship him." They thought that everybody would know that this had happened.
But apparently, they were wrong.
Herod didn’t know it had happened, for example. And he had guys in his court who could cite the Jewish scripture.
So Herod, the acting King of the Jews, calls the wise men in secretly to ask them what it is exactly they are talking about. What the Persians knew and would proclaim publicly, Herod and his court wanted to keep a private matter – for their own reasons, which of course turn out to be nefarious.
Now, what of it? How does this relate to Christmas, and Evangel, and your complaint about the drunken master?
I think there are 3 basic take-aways here which you can take away at your own leisure:
 Coming to worship the one who was born King of the Jews is a public matter. This matter of a king in Israel (who is Jesus) deserves its own place in the world, which we cannot ever be ashamed of. If the Persians (and it could have been any stripe of Persians; it could have actually been Chinese as far as I’m concerned) could come to Jerusalem, where the people ought to have been looking for this baby, and want to worship so much that it was common knowledge regarding what they were looking for, we who say we know Him, and say are His people, ought to be unashamed to tell others we’re here to worship. Have you seen this Jesus? I’m here to worship Him.
 I’d be wary of anyone who wants to only talk in private about the one who was born King of the Jews. Not just because of Herod’s lousy example, but because any private Jesus is a phony Jesus. If your Jesus is just a Jesus inside you, or inside your church, or inside your blog, and that Jesus has to live in a bunker to be safe (or worse: so that you can be safe), that’s not the Jesus who calls men from pagan Persia to worship him. The Jesus who makes us unsafe, and who causes unrest in this world, and causes kings to have private meetings to decide what to do about him, is the Jesus we need to be following.
 This relates to my co-bloggitating in this way: I think people need to see more Jesus. I’m not at liberty to list all the names which were on Joe Carter’s original invite to come and make merry with the Ecumeniacal, but I didn’t see a lot of people from our neck of the woods on the list. I did see plenty of the priests in the temple, and the scribes, and the rulers of the people, and the Hewittites, and the Colsonites, and maybe one or two who were eating locusts and wild honey. In that mix, given that I would have the free reign to blog what was necessary and what I was willing to say, this was like going to Jerusalem to ask around, "excuse me – someone was just born King of the Jews. Do you know about that?"
This has plainly caused unrest in the Ecumenicamp. In fact, it seems to me that some of them have never actually encountered the idea of a Jesus greater than denominations and greater than our systematics before because their apologetics against such a thing are so, well, unimpressive. If signing the Manhattan Declaration could have caused this much unrest among those who were inclined to sign it, I would have used a big, fat magnum Sharpie to sign it and covered a whole page with my name.
So while I have blogged about generosity at Christmas before, and about the joy we have because of receiving Christ instead of wrath, this year I’m blogging (briefly) about the public offense of the child born in a manger, and the problems that he rightfully causes to our safe and secure ways of seeing him. You should be taking Him, and the news about Him, to the people who ought to know better so that they will worship Him. And only Him.
Good tidings of great joy to you, dear readers: let a real Jesus bring you repentance, a clean conscience, a sincere faith, and a true love of others as we consider this baby born King of the Jews.