Bethlehem the birthplace of Jesus is a village perched on a slope in between the desert and the tree-lined water table where one can view both birth and death at the same time in a lowly place. The simplicity brings to mind the Christmas story of a small village in which family is prominent. This “value/belief” is something I thought about at the time I chose to “move back” to New England after years of being separated from my family for a long period of time— family means more to me now. It is understandable to see how family plays an important role, in the Near East. It is almost certain one will place the concerns of the family above themselves. It is this humility that is certain, it is this understanding with which Mary and Joseph took to heart as they became a couple willing to go against traditions and rituals in order to do the will of God as humble servants.
Isaiah and Paul’s letter to the Church of Philippi both instruct those who think they are something (wise) in your own eyes ought to regard others better than self. (Isa. 5:21; Phil. 2:3) Pride allows us to get delusional with our selfish ambitions and think less of another person who is made in the image of God. Standing at the top of the Herodium seeing the creativity and the ingenuity of Herod is something I, on a personal level, can relate to in my earlier career. (Even writing this I am choosing to use I, I, I: Me thinks of Me too much) I wonder at what point does it become pride? Is there a point at which using one’s talents to help society (at least that is what Herod was thinking, probably) is not pride? I had to think that the energy and resources that were put into these shelters seemed not to be a bad thing but was unsuccessfully the fulfillment the people were looking for in a “messiah.” However, maybe it is about motive, for whom are these advancements going to benefit? Would we say the same thing about a person who has cancer going into the field of cancer preventive medicine? They are seeking something for themselves and yet it benefits others in the process.
Understandably we give Herod a bad rap because of his self-importance and using Hellenism as an identifier. Proverbs says, “pride comes before a fall,” and fall Herod did, the entire Empire was reduced to rubble maybe as Josephus has pointed to us that Herod was being punished by God for all his excesses, so at the end of his life he sustained many ailments. But as Jerusalem received a new facade and leaders slowly moved from strict tradition, so their hearts may have moved away from God. We can deceive ourselves and place the rose-colored glasses on our own eyes in order to assimilate into the progress of new.
I saw both extremes today of grandeur and humility and I know for myself, I find being humble difficult. I love ideas and progress while at the same time I also love beauty and truth. It appears to me that it is a delicate balance of these polar opposites that must be conquered in the heart. As I stood at the top of Herodium and gazed over toward Jerusalem, the city on a hill, I felt that both groups were vying for power that was neither theirs to own. God has a way of making the “high places” become low before Him— and I have experienced this— His discipline and grace moving powerfully until the whole world hears that He is King! The first announcement being proclaimed to the lowly shepherds in the fields at night— a midsummer’s night dream come down to live among the people.