The Christmas sermon is done, more or less. Now it's just a question of whether anyone will make it through the snow to hear it tomorrow night.
If you do or if you don't, here's something that didn't fit in the sermon, but still gives me pause: he was laid in a manger. Usually, thanks to Luther, we ponder this mainly as a sign of how lowly his coming among us was. His first bed, like his very existence, was rough around the edges in a way that doesn't match with our image of deity.
But the fact that this was a feeding trough is one I regularly overlook, in spite of the fact that the Gospel of Luke is almost always about food. This savior who is always eating with the wrong people and being known in the breaking of the bread appears first in the place where the beasts feed. The temples and palaces all have their place in Luke, but the real action happens whenever basic creaturely needs are being met.
May you have space and time and sufficient wonder in the days ahead to ponder this mystery, and to be fed yourself by the Savior.
To all those buried under snow in Baltimore and Washington, I say, NO FAIR!
I mean, really, all you need to shut down your cities are a couple inches. You don't NEED 20 inches to have a snow day. We, on the other hand, have to be cumped on good and hard before we get the benefit of staying home from work.
In that poignant scene in Juno when this pregnant teen tells her father and stepmother that she is pregnant, her parents react with as much level-headed concern as one could possibly hope for. And then her father says, "I just didn't think you were that kind of girl."
And she says, in a line that somehow always makes me cry, "I don't know what kind of girl I am."
It's interesting to think of Mary as Juno: smart, sassy, and in way over her head. Historical pictures of her have either focused on her submission to God's will -- "let it be unto me," -- or on her not-at-all-meek song of praise to a God who casts the mighty from their thrones.
What kind of girl was Mary? We really can't tell, from the wee bit we get in Luke. But what she seemed certain of, and the Scripture is clear to tell us, is what kind of GOD chose Mary to bear the Word. That God is powerful but utterly wrapped up in the fate of the lowly, surprising but steadfast, eternal but choosing to become mortal. Mary had a lot to ponder.
I'm preparing an adult forum this Sunday on Christmas carols -- a combination sing- along and story-telling around some of the favorites.
One favorite in our family is Good King Wenceslas, which is mostly a morality tale, but it's still a great tune. Who doesn't enjoy singing, "Bring me flesh and bring me wine. Bring me pine logs thither!"
Out of curiosity, Will and I looked up the Good King. It turns out the "saint" of which the carol speaks was not a king but a duke, and lived a century or so before any "King" Wenceslas. And the St. Agnes whose fountain is referred to in the carol is also anachronistic.
Oh well. Like most Christmas tales, the historical veracity is hardly the point. If the carol has inspired anyone to think of their less fortunate neighbors over the years, it's worth it.
It’s not just that they are patronizing, as if I’m not
capable of digesting actual information and need to have everything boiled down
to imperatives. “Eat vegetables!” “Get up earlier!” “Exercise one hour a day!”
It’s the assumption that all I really need to make my life
more manageable is more ideas of what to do.
Here's John the Baptist again, right when we're just trying to "manage" the Christmas season. We may not think we believe in
righteousness or repentance in our culture, but we do
of us try to manage our righteousness on the front end, with budgets and plans
and green consuming and low-fat holiday treats. We’ll try to counterbalance our
indulgence with feel-good volunteering and gifts to the poor. We’ll schedule
our lives carefully to get the cards and gifts out on time and still spend
quality time with our loved ones.
of us will wait until we feel good and guilty, until we’ve completed our usual
guilty pleasures of fat and alcohol and more credit card expenditures than
necessary, and then when January 1 rolls around turn over a new leaf. We’ll
repent with fasting and spin classes and new financial restraint, at least for
a little while.
And all the while the secular priests, the Suze Ormans and Oprahs and
health insurance companies will give us their bullet point lists that make it
seem so easy, as if all we really needed for a happy family was a 10-point checklist for healthy communication, and all
we really need to stop climate change is better light bulbs.
But the reality is, of course,
that it’s much worse than that.The ax is laid to the root of the tree, folks. And whether the reminder appears in a headline
or in the cracking relationships with our family members, some time this season
it will be clear – we need more than a righteousness management system.We need more than a few more donations and a
couple green gadgets. We need
forgiveness because we have fallen short. And we need salvation, because we so
cannot make it right ourselves. At some point, whether this week or January 2,
our mantra will shift from PREPARE to LORD HAVE MERCY