Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Monday, December 16, 2019

What Kind of King is This?

Hi Friends,

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, I'm thinking of what it might have been like for Mary, Jesus' mother, to encounter Christ the King.

I wonder if she would tell us something like this:

He was born in a barn, wrapped in rags, laid in a feeding trough.  No palace, no crib, no soft silk meant for a king.  The animals were our witnesses.  Lowly shepherds our first visitors.  
            What kind of King is this?
            I held him in my arms. He nestled, and nuzzled. So normal. So real. He let out a cry, his mouth open, searching. I smiled and guided him to eat.  He was strong, this newborn son of mine. Of Gods. This Messiah. 
I rolled the word over in my mind as I gazed down at his pink cheeks, his stock of curly black hair. His eyes were closed, his lashes dark against his skin. 
Messiah. Rescuer. Deliverer. Redeemer. King … Baby.
What kind of King is this?
            He grew up, my Messiah-Son.  And was nothing like I expected.  He didnt conquer Rome, he didnt rule the nations, he didnt raise an army or free Israel . . . at least not in the way I had dreamed.
            Instead, he asked me to face my deepest fear. My darkest doubt. My nightmare.
            A young man came to me in the night. He came disheveled and out of breath. Told me they had arrested my son. Men came—soldiers, crowds, but not only them, the priests came too. The leaders of my people. They came by night to a garden with clubs and torches and swords. And they took him.
            They took him to Gabbatha, the Stone Pavement. The place of judgment.   
            I went too.  I stood there, shaking, in a courtyard with a crowd. The noonday sun beat down on us, illuminating the stones, the people, the priests, Pilate, and my son, my Jesus, wavering on the platform before me. A glance stole my breath, constricted my heart. I barely recognized him. His eye was swollen, his clothes bloody. He looked like a lamb already slaughtered.
            What kind of King is this?
            He did wear a purple robe, but it was to mock him. And on his head ... Oh, ... My soul shattered.  
            On his head was not a crown of gold, but a crown made of the thorns of the akanthos bush. Blood ran down his forehead, his cheeks. 
            Akanthos, a symbol of my people’s shame ...
            Pilate held up his hand. “Behold your king!” he shouted.
            I covered my face, peeked through my fingers.
            “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
            For a moment, hope soared through me.
            And was crushed by a single word: “Barabbas!”
            Just days before the crowds welcomed him like David coming into his kingdom. They laid palm branches, they cried hosanna! They sang, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” They threw down their coats so the colt’s hooves would not even touch the dirt. 
            And I believed he rode in to claim his kingdom at last.
            But what kind of King is this?
            A king isn’t beaten.
            A king isn’t bloody.
            A king doesn’t die a criminal’s death.
            Or does He?
            Pilate spoke again. “What shall I do with this Jesus?” he cried.
            The question drove into me like a soul-piercing sword. It drove through me, became my own. What shall I do with this Jesus? What shall I do with a King destined to die?
            What shall I do with this kind of King?  

Monday, December 2, 2019

Christmas Changes Everything

Hi Friends,

As we begin the Christmas season, celebrating the birth of Christ into our world, I thought I'd share what it might have been like for Mary to encounter an angel with an incredible promise.

Perhaps, if Mary could talk to us about Christmas, she would begin something like this:

(Adapted from Wrestling with Wonder)

Christmas changes everything.  HE changes everything.  He changed me, Mary.  He changed this ordinary girl, with her ordinary life, in an ordinary village tucked into the back corners of Galilee. But he changed all that. 
            Here’s how it started:
            It was early in the morning, and my mother had gone to gather gossip near Nazareth’s well.  I stood by the grinding stone, my fingers sunk deep in the warm dough of the day's bread. A sound rustled behind me.  I turned.  And saw him.
            A man, but not a man. Like nothing I have ever seen before.  Tall and strong. Shining. Splendid. Extraordinary.
            In the silvery silence, he approached me. Looked at me. Gently, fiercely, his gaze like fire in my soul. And he spoke.
            “Rejoice!” A common word. An uncommon greeting. “Rejoice, favored one, the Lord is with you.”
            What kind of greeting was this? 
            He said it again. “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.”
            Then, he whispered a single word: “Behold ...” It is the word for see. But what he wanted me to see was impossible. 
            He said, “Behold, you will conceive in the womb and will bear a son and you will call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David.  And he will rule over the house of Jacob into the ages and of his kingdom there will be no end!”
            What?! I grasped at the first impossibility.  “How will this be? I’m a virgin.” 
            And then came the wildest part of all. He didn’t speak of men or of marriage.  He spoke of miracles. He told me the Holy Spirit himself would come upon me and God’s power would overshadow me. And this child, this tiny little baby boy would be called holy, the very Son of God.
            An incredible plan. An astounding promise.  But more than a promise. A call. A question. Would I leave all my plans, all my hopes, behind me?  Would I lay aside my ordinary life to embrace this vision of something new, something impossible, beyond anything I ever imagined?
            His next words danced through me: “Nothing is impossible with God.”
            “No word from God will ever fail."
            Did I dare believe it? Did I dare say yes? I knew what it meant. Nothing would be the same again. No one would understand. Could I bear that kind of shame? Could I bear their disbelief? And more, could I bear that kind of beauty? Could I bear the wonder?
            And in that ordinary moment, on an ordinary day, in an ordinary life, the heavens waited, breathless.
            “I am the Lord’s servant.” I exhaled the words. “May it be done to me according to what you’ve said.”  
            My angel smiled.
            I trembled.
            Then, he was gone.
            And all I could think of was the babe, all I could hear was the whispered cry of my soul:  Messiah, Savior, Son, be born in me . . .