Bread – Arrogance

December 19, 2008


Readings for Friday, December 19

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 10:5-19; 2 Pet. 2:17-22; Matt. 11:2-15

            Psalms 40, 51, 54

—————————————————————————————-

 

“Arrogance” means being full of pride and self-importance.*  We have a slang term for it – being full of oneself.  Because the word has such a negative connotation, if we were to stand in front of a mirror and ask if we were arrogant, we would probably respond “no, that is impossible!”  However, if we stand in front of a mirror and ask, on any given occasion, whether we are full of pride, full of self-importance, or even full of ourselves, we would probably say “yes.”  Therefore, to be accurate, it is fair to say that, in those times and places, then “yes, we are arrogant.”

 

Today’s lessons significantly focus upon arrogance and God’s hatred of it.  In Isaiah, we read:

 

“I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.  For he says: ‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.”  Isa. 10:12-13

 

And in the second Epistle of Peter, we read:

 

“These men [bold and arrogant men] are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.  Blackest darkness is reserved for them…They [bold and arrogant men] promise them [unstable in faith] freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity — for a man is slave to whatever has mastered him.”  2 Pet. 2:17-19 (parenthetical references are to verses 10 and 14)

 

Against this attitude of humanity that believes that we have achieved “by the strength of my hand” (when we have not) and that we have acted correctly because of “my wisdom, because I have understanding” (when we have neither), God does not break into the world with the fullest demonstration of power but with the fullest demonstration of restraint.  He does not come to the arrogant in the form of a warrior but in the form of a baby.

 

Why do we celebrate Christmas when it is Christ’s death and resurrection which saves those who believe in Him?  Maybe it is because we know that there could be no death and resurrection, no Easter, without Christ’s birth.  But maybe there is also another reason.  Maybe we celebrate Christmas because we know that our great arrogance, based upon false assumptions and foundations, can only be overcome by incredible meekness, based upon real power.

 

One of my favorite scenes from the movie Talladega Nights is the “grace” said by the race car driver over a dinner made up of almost every fast food imaginable.  The “grace” is said to the “baby Jesus” and after being criticized for his continuing to pray to the “baby Jesus,” the race car driver states that he likes praying to the “baby Jesus” and he’ll keep doing it as long as he wants to.

 

Like all good comedy, there is a deep truth behind this scene.  Ricky Bobby, the race car driver, was at the top of his game and was full of pride and arrogance, all based upon false assumptions and foundations.  And yet even he realized in his heart that he owed a great deal of thanks to God’s willingness to become nothing so that he (Ricky Bobby) could become something (for real), and that deep knowledge caused him to say “I will pray to the baby Jesus if I want to.”

 

In a sense, for many people Christmas is like Ricky Bobby’s mealtime, a time to acknowledge God but that is about it.  But piercing through that fog of self-centeredness is also the realization that we need what God has to offer – we need the Christ-child.

 

So this Christmas season let us not just offer a prayer to the Christ-child because “we want to,” but let us set aside our arrogance and let us adore Him!

 

Amen.

 

————————————————————————————————

Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

————————————————————————————————

*Adapted from the definition given in Webster’s New World Dictionary (College Edition) (1976)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: