"In The Shadow of Devils Tower" By Dennis W. Miller
It was a beautiful morning in early December 1996. Rachel and I had just finished a delicious breakfast at the Seven Arches Hotel in east Jerusalem. As my wife returned to our room to prepare for the day’s events, I walked outside behind the hotel into a little garden for meditation and prayer. Looking southward toward Bethlehem, I could see in the distance a strange-looking mountain with a flat top. At first glance, it looked similar to the spectacular rock formation in northeastern Wyoming known as Devils Tower. As I gazed upon this awesome sight, I had no idea at the time that it really was a “Devil’s tower.”
The breathtaking mountain, with its flattened summit and ringed defenses, was Herod the Great’s circular palace-fortress. Known as “The Herodium” during the first century, it was the third largest fortress in the entire world and a symbol of the power and might of evil in that land. Historians believe that it was from this location that Herod dispatched his ruthless troops to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under (Matthew 2:16).
While traveling in Israel once again in early 1999, I visited this awesome site. The very presence of the enormous mountain overshadowed everything else in the region including the “Little Town of Bethlehem.” Everything and everyone in David’s town was enveloped in its dominance.
We, too, are not strangers to the presence of evil. In the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, the fear of terrorism has only intensified. Add to that the threat of domestic mass shootings, gun violence, racial strife, crime, and the context of an increasingly fragmented society, many in our country are gripped by fear this holiday season. How then shall we live knowing that those who plot evil have not have not repented of their sins and traded in their guns for olive branches? Do we dare live as if God is stronger than the evil and trouble that we face in our own lives and society? Do we live as if the power that we have is greater than any power that is against us?”
Somewhere within the shadow of the Herodium, the Savior of the world was born. It was within that shadow that the Christmas angel said to the shepherds in Bethlehem’s fields, “Do not be afraid, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:10-11). It is within that same shadow this year that we must give ear to our Wonderful Counselor’s comfort, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Yet, the promise of peace is more than the absence of conflict. The Hebrew word shalom means “something once fractured has been made whole again.” As followers of the Prince of Peace, we must seek peace. God expects us to be more than peace-wishers. We are to be peacemakers. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). In this world of fear and hatred, we must strive to create shalom communities and be instruments of God’s justice, restoration and hope.
Yes, we live in a scary world. Therefore, it is in the shadow of Devils Tower that we live...and love. Because, even though the cultural, political and theological descendants of Herod still seem dominant, the divine paradox is that our hope is found in a small crying manger babe who is really in control. This season, as God once again breaks open the symbols of the Christmas story in such a way that they illuminate our spirits, we light a candle in the shadow of Devil’s Tower. We shine the light that has come to us from outside our darkness, a gift, the holy child of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ—the light of the world.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” - 1 John 4:18a