They’ll go down as the most watched and talked about flying shoes in history!
They’ll go down as the most watched and talked about flying shoes in history! And from them we learn a lesson about Christmas. By now you’ve seen the replays a hundred times—that press conference moment in Baghdad Sunday with President Bush and Prime Minister al-Malaki standing side by side at the podium. The president had just begun his opening statement, when a 28-year-old Iraqi TV reporter, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, jumped to his feet and exploded with some unsavory shouting, as one by one he hurled his shoes at the president. Bush instinctively and remarkably ducked both flying shoes, before security guards pounced on the reporter and hauled him away.
Why the shoes? You may remember that in the culture of the Middle East nothing is more derogatory or demeaning than to strike an individual with your shoe. For the shoe is considered a symbol of the lowliest and the lowest. When crowds gathered around Saddam Hussein’s toppled statue and struck it repeatedly with their shoes, their point was obvious. What could be more disdaining and lowlier?
And in the same region when on that starry, starry night the God of the universe squeezed out of a teenage womb and entered our race, his welcome was the equivalent of a hurled shoe—for what could be lowlier or more demeaning than to offer the Divine One a malodorous backyard cave for his birthplace? Scum of the ground, refuse of the earth—any other leader than God would have been highly affronted. To that room full of reporters President Bush joked away the size 10 shoes that flew past his head. There were no reporters, however, when the Eternal squalled from his make-shift manger cradle. Just a travel worn peasant couple and some brute beasts.
They say, “if the shoe fits, wear it.” And he did, the God born in Bethlehem. For on the eve of his death, he returned to his primordial roots, as one by one he removed his followers’ dirty shoes and bathed their soiled and smelly feet. No reporters were there either. Just the wide-eyed and smitten disciples who in muted shame watched the most powerful and humble God in the universe become the lowest and the lowliest. Again.
“He made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7 TNIV). “‘Herein is love.’ Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth!” (Desire of Ages 49). Dallas Willard is right: “When we see Jesus as he is, we must turn away or else shamelessly adore him” (The Divine Conspiracy 19).
“O come, let us adore him!”