This is the third in a series of four WORKTALKweeklys designed to help you think about the Christmas story.
There is possibly no riskier place to be than in a position of power. Some of you have enormous influence over thousands of people; others over one or two. Powerful positions exist officially through recognised authority or unofficially through jockeying for position but usually each person has someone in their lives over whom they hold sway. Power is not confined to work; it extends to family, church or community as well as amongst friends.
The risk of power is that it corrupts our minds into thinking we are better, more important and more significant than others. It tricks us into believing we can use others for our own ends and rule over their lives. It flatters to deceive us such that we consider ourselves justified in holding onto power for indefinite periods and thinking that our position is unassailable. It is an intoxicating, heady drug which spreads illusion amongst its addicts.
You may derive your power from your mind, your looks, your finances or your position. You may be a big fish or a slightly bigger fish than the others and, of course, pond sizes vary.
However, for everyone there comes a moment when God says “I am God and you are not” – it is the divine challenge to the oldest sin. It is the usurper’s day of reckoning.
Such was Herod’s moment. Wielding power in a disgraceful way he built up quite a reputation. Like most powerful people he had a mixed track record. Some of his public projects were positive but his path to corruption was well-advanced.
Three Iranian travellers asked to see the “oneborn King of the Jews”. They were asking about real power. This was the authentic, incorruptible version and Herod felt a shiver in his soul. His reaction to the disturbance was to flatter, to lie and sometime later to attempt to destroy. But this was his moment and he blew it. The message of advent is one of great encouragement, comfort and rescue. But it is also the time when God turns up. Emmanuel means “with us” but it means “God with us”. When God is with us he is in charge; there is a new King in town.
You and I have to choose. Try to cling on to power and remain disturbed, rebellious and violent, or allow ourselves to be taken over only to discover that this power doesn’t corrupt but restores and equips us to wield power in the way it was intended.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 ” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'” 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
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