Sunday, December 6, 2015

The King, the Maiden, and Doubt

My favorite Christmas story, apart from the original, has to be Soren Kierkegaard's A King and the Maiden.  This parable of a king who loves a common girl is a beautiful retelling of the Gospel, of a God who pursues out of love, of a God who does not want devotion to be based in obligation or fear, but rather who desires devotion to be natural and organic, an outpouring of true, relational love.  

"Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden who lived in a poor village in his kingdom. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist-no one dared resist him. But would she love him? 

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know for sure? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal. 

The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend to her. Clothed as a beggar, he approached her cottage with a worn cloak fluttering loose about him. This was not just a disguise – the king took on a totally new identity – He had renounced his throne to declare his love and to win hers. "

And so Christ came near to us, as a vulnerable baby who would become a man.  The Creator reaching down to His creation.  It's that part of the Christmas story that makes me disagree when I hear people say that all religions are similar and that all roads lead to the same God.  The truth is Christianity alone is the only religion that contains that element.  No other religion tells a story where the deity lays down his godhead to become less than what he already was.  It is what makes Christianity unique, wholly different than the truths of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism.  

Faith in that story is a bit of a tricky thing.  It's easy to say and harder to live.  It's easy to love because it is tradition but harder to embrace when traditions lie in pieces and the bottom is falling out of the world as you know it.   It seems like sometimes people who choose to believe the story are assumed to be perfect in their faith, never doubting and understanding always.  But the reality is the people who believe this story in the most authentic way are actually those who believe in spite of their doubts, not in the absence of those doubts.

From our church service this morning, an artistic monologue on faith and doubt.  Perhaps not your usual advent message but somehow it seems like if we want people to really love the story of the King that we have to start with the basic idea of what it really means to believe, doubts and all.  


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