The Jesus story that has the world stuck

emptymanger

Christmas is in two days. People will be filing into churches everywhere and celebrating a Jesus story that has humankind and our world stuck! On of the most-read Bible passages at Christmas is the prophecy in Micah 5:2-4. This is where we started to get things messed up with the Jesus story, which I talk about extensively in Inner Anarchy. Below is an excerpt from the book.

“Micah’s prophecy states:

‘Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times. So the Lord will abandon his people to their enemies until the one who is to give birth has her son. Then his fellow countrymen who are in exile will be reunited with their own people. When he comes he will rule his people with the strength that comes from the Lord and with the majesty of the Lord God himself. His people will live in safety because people all over the earth will acknowledge his greatness, and he will bring peace.’

Christian clergy use this well-known prophecy to support the divine authenticity of the birth of Jesus. It is bandied around the world with great rejoicing at countless Christmas services.

But let’s think about this. Why the celebration? This prophecy has obviously not yet been fulfilled. One could hardly claim that people all over the earth live in safety and that peace reigns. If it had been fulfilled by the physical birth of Jesus in the actual town of Bethlehem—if indeed the messiah had come in that scenario—then our world would not be in the mess and misery that it is in right now. That is logical, isn’t it?

But if you take another look at this prophesy and the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, we find some clues that point to the true messiah.

Just what does “Bethlehem Ephrathah” mean in the Micah passage? The Hebrew translates it as “an ever-increasing fruitful family, or house, that brings forth food, especially bread that prevails and overcomes.”

Does that sound like a little town near Jerusalem to you?

It sounds to me more like a group of people—a family, an atmosphere—that brings forth a sustenance in the world that is powerful and triumphant. Who would this family be? Us! And what is this bread that we bring into the world? It is the “living bread,” which is the life-giving Spirit within us. In other words, there is a “heavenly” Bethlehem—a spiritual dimension inside us—and from this inner Bethlehem, a powerful and triumphant reality is to be birthed out of us into the world.”

– Jim Palmer, Inner Anarchy

Latest Comments

  1. jim hibbett says:

    Jim. I think If the gospels themselves were understood as symoblic, mythical material, not literal and historical; we would do with the symbol of Bethlehem , where the savior within us is born, very much as you have ended up doing. But we of Western materialistic, everything must be logcial, mindset tend to think everything is ‘out there’ so we attempt to make the inner symbolic into literal history. And it never works. It always makes for contradition. It fails to bring something to life within us(except when we are in spite or ourselves ‘touched’ by the mythical power of the story).It is simply a wrong use of ancient Sacred text. So we do not need to rush to fallable hisitory, though that is a good activity, to better interpret this and other texts with the heart. We,I think, ought to take them as symbolic and mythical to start with. All archetypal symbol and myth are alive in the human psyche as part of our inherited collective psyche. Sacred story, and creative quality secular story as well, simply stirs them up to awareness where we might become ‘touched’ by them and made more fully conscious of them. All else in the ‘Christmas Story’ should be received and worked with this same way. Then we might find what the carol means for these truths, such as God incarnating, to be ‘born in us today.’ A point I wish to make is that as symbol and myth these stories are a trearue house. It is only when we take them as literal one time history that we destroy their relevance and life.

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