As I write, my husband and I are spending the Thanksgiving week with his family on Marco Island, off the southwestern coast of Florida. As I write, environmental scientists estimate that somewhere between 30,000 and 300,000 Burmese pythons are also in Florida. Happy holidays.
Apparently, about 20 years ago, someone released a pet python into the Everglades. Everything about this confuses me. Why would someone own a python? Also, why would that same person decide to set it free in the wild?
If I, in a crazed state, happened to own a gigantic, capable-of-killing-large-mammals snake, and then suddenly, I snapped back into reality and realized that crap, I own a giant snake - I’d kill it.
I would not set it free. I would kill it. Immediately.
I understand that this method isn’t congruent with those who are not in crazed states and who also own snakes. Presumably these people actually like snakes, and therefore when it comes time to get rid of them, they’re likely not altogether happy to do so. Letting them go is probably their idea of allowing them to find a new life, in a new place, where they can still be happy and do whatever snakes - in this case, pythons - do best. It sounds humane. PETA would like this solution more than mine, I suppose.
But incidentally, it appears that what pythons do best is to eat anything with fur or feathers. The Everglade mammal population has been almost entirely decimated since these things entered the ecosystem.
Remember that the Everglades is a National Park. Remember that National Parks would prefer their visitors to please not touch anything. Pythons, on the other hand, have slithered in and gobbled up everything with legs. There’s a ridiculousness to it that’s hard to grasp.
So why in the world would pythons be an appropriate subject for Christmas? Snakes are seriously the worst, and Christmas is the best, and the twain shall never meet, right?
Maybe that’s wrong. If we understand the origin of the Christmas story, we’ll find that a snake actually features quite centrally within it. The Bible says that all of us have fallen away from God (Romans 3:23) - that we’ve “missed the mark” and have thus forgotten our Creator, our true Home and even our true Selves. We’ve forgotten because we’ve been away for so long. We were originally meant to live in a place where God walked alongside us (Genesis 1), where we would be entirely free from death and disease and pain and sorrow. But we also had to follow one rule. And we felt that this was unjust.
Actually, it was a snake who first pointed it out (Genesis 3). God’s rules, according to the serpent, were based on lies - and His desire to manipulate us. We were being tricked. If we did what we wanted, we’d get to be what we wanted. And what we wanted to be - what we still want to be - is left alone. Left to rule ourselves. To be our own masters. Our own kings. Our own gods.
The idea that someone Else had that authority - rightfully, as our Creator and as our Father - was absurd, said the snake.
No one else should be making decisions for you.
It’s not fair - you ought to be in charge.
No one understands you like you, right?
You’ve been held back and held down. How dare He?
Said the snake.
He had us at ‘hierarchy.’ We bought into victimhood from the beginning, and we buy into it now. Does that mean all victimhood is an illusion? Absolutely not. Humans demean and abuse and torment other humans every hour on this planet of ours, and have since the moment we left the Garden. But no matter what revenge we might take or reforms we might pursue, the feeling remains that someone must pay the price for our pain.
We have it half right. Someone must pay. But it’s not just for our pain. It’s also for the pain we’ve caused others - the pain we will cause others. For pain we mean, and pain we don’t mean. For pains of the past, and pains of the present, and pains of the future. Someone must pay. (Romans 6:23)
The snake knew this. He understood God’s goodness - and our inclination to utterly reject it. It was all an elaborate set-up. Someone must pay.
Damn the man, said the snake.
And that’s exactly the sentence we deserve.
But then… Christmas came.
Damn The Man, said God.
The joy of Christmas, you see, is entirely wrapped up in and made true only by the condemnation of the Cross. The pain of the Christ-child’s birth - the curse Eve carried out of the Garden (Genesis 3:16) - is matched a thousandfold by the pain of His execution and death - the curse Christ bore on the tree (Galatians 3:13). Christmas isn’t about a baby, in the truest sense - it’s about a Baby, who grew up to be a Man, who God made to be Sin, so that we could be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God knew the rules. He created the rules.
Someone must pay, said the snake.
Someone did - the Only One who could afford such a price.