Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chritophanies and Advent Season

Have you ever gotten a reference to something and said to yourself, "I wonder if anyone else caught that...?" One of my favorite television shows is Bones. For those of you not familiar with it, it's a crime drama in which the main character and forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan and her FBI Agent partner Seeley Booth join forces and expertises to solve murders. The writers on that show exhibit their brilliance on a weekly basis by letting the audience catch on to small subtle jokes.

I was treated to TWO cool moments this week! One: the murdered character of the week (there's pretty much one of those every episode) went to Penn State, which I found neat (and a little sad :-( poor dead fictional Penn Stater). Two: she was a spy named Harriet... aka Harriet the Spy! Quickly wondering if anyone else caught that, I pulled up my Twitter client and searched for "Harriet Spy Bones" and sure enough, other people were having the same kind of "HEY! HARRIET THE SPY! I see what you did there writers!" moment that I was having.

I think God does this as well.

Someone (Bret Koontz? Kevin Brungard?) who was a leader in my church camp when I was a kid pointed out what he called "Jesus cameos" in the Old Testament. These "Jesus cameos" were little parts in the Old Testament where it seems that Jesus pops in for a bit. For example, check out the "Fiery Furnace" scene in Daniel 3. For those of you who may be a little fuzzy on the details to the story, I'll sum it up for you.

Basically, there was this jerk king named Nebuchadnezzar. He had a bright idea to make a statue of himself out of gold and get everyone in his kingdom to bow before it. If anyone refused, they'dget tossed into a furnace. Reasonable, right?

Anyway, there are three guys (friends of Daniel) who are faithful to Daniel. We know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (aka Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah). They talk amongst themselves and agree they're not going to bow to this image of the king, because they know the second of the Ten Commandments says they shouldn't. In fact they're so emboldened, they give this response to Nebuchadnezzar: "“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."”

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I'm pretty sure there was a little of this going on:

But I digress. I love their actual, Biblically recorded response just as it is, their faith, and their total dependence on God. It's for this attitude, I believe, that God uses them to demonstrate His awesome power. Nebuchadnezzar, being royally (get it?) ticked off, declared that the furnace should be heated SEVEN times hotter than normal. It was *so* hot that the guards who took the three men to be tossed in the furnace DIED from the heat. But not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

"Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Many Bible commentators believe that this fourth man was not a "son of the gods" but The Son of God, Jesus Christ. This kind of appearance is called a Christophany, and I honestly believe that one of the reasons God chooses to do this is to allow us to say, "Huh... that's kinda cool." It also generally means that people should pay attention... Nebuchadnezzar certainly learned his lesson (until the end of that chapter of the Bible anyway). Daniel 3:28

"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God."

This kind of thing pops up all over literature as well (Hagrid mentioning Sirius Black in the first chapter of the first Harry Potter book, for example). Maybe I'm weird, but it always gives me a little bit of joy and pleasure when I find these things.

I think my favorite of all time, though, is that Jesus Christ is mentioned in the THIRD chapter of the Bible. Now to put that in perspective, it takes LESS than 0.336417157% of the Bible to get to a mention of Jesus.

Genesis 3:14-15: (emphasis mine)

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

From the very beginning of time, even before the beginning of time, God had a redemption plan in place, and Jesus keeps checking in periodically. We can see Him throughout the Old Testament, and of course in the New Testament. One thing always remains the same--when Jesus shows up, people pay attention. We're getting into the time of the year where we think about His arrival on this planet. Jesus showed up... pay attention. Keep that in mind as you delve into all your Christmas shopping.

Happy Advent Season everyone!