Tag Archives: Daniel 3

The Fiery Furnace and Christmas

The book of Daniel challenges the “normal” perspective of the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament, God addressed the people or culture of Israel as a whole. From the exodus, through the wilderness wanderings  up to the divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, God interacted with a unified culture: kings and prophets, merchants and farmers. “You shall have no other god before Me.”

In the book of Daniel this changed. The Jews who are in exile in Babylon are not the dominant culture, but rather a small minority. A king like Nebuchadnezzar might come to recognize the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when God delivers them from the fiery furnace, but he does not force the whole of his society to conform to Jewish culture. Instead the stories of Daniel show how the Jews resisted the religious rules of the dominant culture, even when it might cost them their lives. The Jews in exile had entered a multicultural world.

I wonder if this has a lesson for Christians in the season of Christmas. I know that some Christians are upset that the dominant culture gives only token acknowledgment to the religious basis for Christmas, replacing the manager and baby Jesus with the Christmas tree and Santa Claus.  There are some Christians who long for a more “pure” holiday, when school concerts could sing “Silent Night”” and public prayers could refer to Jesus Christ as Lord. But our current reality is more like the Jews in exile in Babylon than as citizens in the Kingdom of Judah. We might long to live in a monolithic culture in which society promotes our spiritual vision, but we do not.  We live in a multicultural world, with competing worldviews and behaviors.

What this means is that Christians need to do an even better job of telling the great true story of God and Christmas. The book of Daniel was written for the discouraged, scattered Jews to encourage them in the exile and beyond.  The story stated that God still ruled in Babylon, even when kings and other officials denied Him.  The story continues to proclaim that God still rules in America, even if our officials remain silent. And like Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, we can serve in government, schools, or media, knowing that they are not “god,” and that we may have moments to bear witness to the God who can deliver, Jesus the Christ.

Jesus, let me bear witness to you as my deliverer.

Prison Prayer

I have always admired Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who worked for the resistance against Adolph Hitler and was executed in April 1945 for his participation in the plot to assassinate Hitler.  He reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they stood up to the religious tyranny of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3.   Written in prison, Bonhoeffer’s prayer could have been their prayer.  It certainly can be ours.

 O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone

In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me.

O heavenly Father
I praise and thank you
For the peace of the night;
I praise and thank you for this new day;
I praise and thank you for all the goodness
and faithfulness throughout my life.

You have granted me many blessings;
Now let me also accept what is hard
from your hand.
You will lay on me no more
than I can bear.
You make all things work together for good
for your children.

Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
and in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
when all men fail me;
It is your will that I should know you
and turn to you.
Lord, I hear your call and follow;
Help me.

I remember in your presence all my loved ones,
my fellow-prisoners, and all who in this house
preform their hard service;
Lord have mercy.

Restore me to liberty,
and enable me so to live now
that I may answer before you and before men.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised. AMEN.

(Letter and Papers from Prison, 1971, p. 139)