"unintended consequences", Asheville NC, baby Jesus, Bethlehem, Christmas, fear, gifts, Herod the Great, ownership, ownership puts us at risk, stolen - broken - lost, tennis racquet, the Magi, the massacre of the infants, there is no danger of losing what you don't have
My first tennis racquet! I still remember that Monday Christmas morning on Coleman Ave, two blocks west of Merrimon Avenue in Asheville, NC. The courts were not far away. I could hardly wait to get that cat gut strung racquet out of the press (after all, that was before the era of aluminum racquets) that protected the racquet from warping. It was too cold that day to try out the racquet and balls, but it wouldn’t be all that long before that 11 year old boy would find out that hitting a tennis ball was much more work that I had ever imagined.
But, one thing was not more than I imagined – the racquet was mine. I was the owner now that the Christmas gifts were exchanged!!! And, of course, I was responsible; my younger brother (by 17 months) would not get his hands on MY racquet. I owned that racquet for many years. I never really got very good at tennis, but I liked to play and still do, but now with my grandkids. By now I have one of those large aluminum racquets with synthetic strings.
Christmas is just about here for 2012. Gifts will be given, and both kids and adults will “take ownership” of both new toys and much needed non-toys. By the time Christmas day is over, the feeling of “that is mine” will be very ingrained. And, woe to the sibling who without permission grabs the toy belonging to someone else.
Why bring up this topic of ownership at Christmas time? Simply because this new batch of owned items sets up a scenario of new fears that didn’t exist on December 24! Although the fears are unintended consequences of the gift giving, they are real. Permit me to explain, doing so within the context of the original Christmas, the incarnation of the Son of God – when Jesus was in His infancy.
The story includes the arrival of Magi from Asia, bring gifts for the new king of the Jews. Once in Palestine, the Magi ended up at the palace of the ruling king, eventually labeled Herod the Great. The Magi’s explanation for traveling to Palestine, that they want to give gifts to the new king of the Jews, troubles Herod very deeply; he understood the clear message – a king not of Herod’s choosing would at some point replace Herod. When the Magi were able to leave Bethlehem to begin their return to their native country, all without Herod realizing it, the news eventually got back to Herod. He in turn, in a rage, retreated to his modus operandi for dealing with what he considers political threats, and ordered a massacre, carried out by his military, of all the infant boys of two years and less of age in the Bethlehem area. He figured that the ‘new king” would be one of the murdered infants. That others would die in the process was just another day at the office for Herod.
Herod’s behavior was birthed by his fear of losing something that he considered to belong only to him – his kingship. Without the potential loss of his throne, Herod would not have been fearful of the news of a new king being born. Herod’s plight is just as real today as it was 2000 years ago. It can be expressed in several different ways (the reader can opt for the manner that seems best). “You can only lose what you own.: “There is no danger of losing what you don’t have.” “No one can take from you what you don’t have.” “Ownership puts us at risk of losing what we have.” “If you give something away, it is no longer yours to lose.” “Ownership is a threat to tranquility.”
One day I was talking with a former college classmate who had gone to Vietnam to do missionary work. It was during the time of armed conflict in Vietnam. In an unconscious expression of my own apprehension (could I have done what he did??), I asked my friend if he was ever afraid of losing his life in Vietnam, was he afraid of dying, of being killed? He couldn’t have responded more succinctly, “I died before going to Vietnam.” My friend had learned, long before I had, that you don’t fear losing what you don’t have.”
Christmas will bring in a multitude of new owned items. Each one has the potential of being lost, broken, or stolen. Depending on how badly we want to maintain ownership of those gifts, we will have a certain level of fear as a consequence of that ownership. A word of advice –as early as possible, emotionally / spiritually release your sense of ownership. If God owns you, let him also own all your things, and live free.