Sometimes, what we get is not what we expected.
Cheryl Cornish is Pastor of a Congregational Church. She writes (I have forgotten where): My Grandfather, a homesteader in Western Nebraska, loved to share stories of the people who settled in the Sandhills in the late Nineteenth century. One of his favorite stories involved a wedding dance at Broken Bow, where one of the musicians played a trick on the wedding guests. Customarily, whole families came to the dances. They usually arrived early in the day and didn't return until the early hours of the following morning. When evening came, parents bedded their babies and younger children in separate corners of a room.
At the Broken Bow wedding dance, the fiddle player took a break while the other musicians played on. During that break, he played a practical joke on the wedding guests. Sneaking into the room where the babies were sleeping, he switched their caps, their coats, and their blankets. When the long night's celebration ended, the parents scurried to get their children out of the dark room and into the wagons. Sighting the familiar hats and coats, they grabbed their babies and headed out to the wagons for the trip home.
According to Broken Bow's Callaway Courier, chaos reigned at the telephone office the next morning. The switchboard operator was besieged with phone calls from frantic parents who discovered, by the light of day, that they had grabbed the wrong babies.
This story reminds me of the way God, in a sense, "switched babies" on the Jewish people. They had expected one kind of Messiah -- someone regal, powerful, one who could get things done, a Messiah who could rally the troops, drive out the enemy and restore their kingdom. Instead, they got a baby who went to the cross -- a baby whose greatest weapons, when he became a man, were love and forgiveness.
Many years later Paul was still dealing with people who preached "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:4) -- that is, not the Christ crucified that Paul preached. Instead, they apparently wanted a triumphalist Christ, one who would give them nothing but success and victory, power and glory.
Are we any different? A recent survey, reported in today's paper, indicates that what young people want more than anything else is lots of money. When Oprah Winfrey was asked why she built a school in South Africa rather than here she said that when they asked what American kids wanted the answer was ipods, cell phones, and other such things, while the kids in South Africa wanted uniforms so they could go to school (Register Guard, 1/23/07). Our culture of greed, success, power and creature comforts has infected us more than we know. We too want a Christ who gives us what we want.
What a switch. Instead of a triumphalist Christ we got one who said that he came "not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45) and challenged his disciples with the words, "if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34).
So how do we honor and remember this Jesus? Not by gazing on the marble statue of a great warrior, but by coming to the Lord's Table and remembering his sacrifice. Not by going to some great monument but by taking common elements and hearing his words as he broke the bread, saying "this is my body," and as he offered the cup and said, "this is my blood, shed for the remission of sins. Do this in remembrance of me."