Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas!

It’s Christmas Day!
And, in many homes the baby Jesus will be placed in the manger. In ours, like many others, the Christmas story from Luke 2 will be read.
In all of time—since time began, the triune God planned for this day—when the Godhead would split and in a unique and temporary way, no longer be one in the quite the same way.
Can I understand such an event? I cannot.
But, perhaps, when one has loved another for so long and so deeply—who is no longer here—maybe, just maybe—that one has the tiniest intimation of something so outrageous—maybe.
I don’t know what was happening all those months in Mary’s womb, but there came the moment of birth and God, very God, entered our world.
The angels sang, the shepherds watched, the wisemen worshiped, Herod plotted, Joseph protected, Mary pondered, and the Creator became the created, of a sort.
And should the Savor of the world not come as a babe—the very symbol of hope in a heavy, weary world?
For Mary there would be days to ponder, days to forget, and days to weep.
For Jesus there would be days to submit, days to love and instruct, a day to die, and a day to reclaim His glory once more.
Wisemen look for a Savior and wisemen still find Him—
Is there any better place to find Him than in the lives of us who bear His name?
Happy Christmas, all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


If Herod had a mortal antithesis, it was the quiet unassuming Joseph. So much of the incarnation centers around Mary and the baby, yet Joseph was very much front and center. After Mary’s first encounter with the angel, it seems to be Joseph whom God leads through dreams.
He must have been a godly man, one who was more concerned with his relationship with God than what other godly men considered to be godly or religious. Seriously, how does one explain to his family and friends that he is going to marry his betrothed after she returns pregnant from an extended stay with her cousin? He doesn’t; he simply marries her. And when the baby is to be born— obviously too early—well now, people haven’t changed. What do we think?
Joseph was a risk taker, not the careless, flamboyant type, just the careful, contemplative type. So it’s Joseph who guides Mary first to Bethlehem and then to Egypt and back again to Nazareth. Sometimes in life we end up back where we began. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, that’s just the way it is. Did he recall all the prophecies that he was helping to fulfill? I doubt he had time to think about it.
But, today is a good day to consider the man bearing the responsibility of his young wife, bearing a child he could not understand. For who could grasp Messiah as a baby? —Messiah, who would redeem them (and us) from bondage.
So then as today, Christmas is close at hand:
—Helen waking to the first snow in Heidelberg and exclaiming, “Oh, Brecky, it’s Christmas!”
—Flora grasping her too large cowgirl hat in the children’s Christmas program, singing, “Welcome, welcome…”
—Callie and Ellie, wide-eyed, stashing candy canes from Aunt Lora’s tree and stuffing them in their bags…
The children know it’s Christmas, and they anticipate it with joy. Somehow, in Joseph’s planning and care, I believe he looked on the coming birth of Messiah with joy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I’ve never seen a nativity set that included Herod, and of course not, he wasn’t there—or was he? Though absent in body, Herod was a figure that should be acknowledged and reckoned with within the structure of the incarnation.
I see Herod sitting in a palace hall on a cold, moonless night—the sparks of the fire before him reflected in dark, calculating eyes. He purses his lips, and with squinted eyes he gazes into the flames.
 Herod’s very name raised awareness and caution. And the closer one was to him, the more there was to fear. No one was exempt—not brother, not wife, not child.
But, perhaps on this night, there was relief in the palace as Herod’s thoughts had turned from Jerusalem and bent toward the nearby town of Bethlehem.
The wisemen had come and gone; those knowledgeable in prophesy had kept no secrets. And Herod waits—waiting, staring into the fire.
As my vision of him retreats, viewing his back—head cocked to the side—I can hear his words still echo in the corridors, “Find the child, and send me word—that I, too, may go and worship him also.” And, just before the scene of Herod closes, I think I catch the hint of a smile and a gleam of satisfaction in those dark, foreboding eyes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Wisemen

The Wisemen—

Now that we have a grandchild in town, and since Mardels had a great sale on them a few weeks ago, we’ve purchased the Fisher Price nativity set. Being in America and being the 21st Century, the wisemen are very politically correct—one’s white, one’s black, and one’s Asian. Jay’s convinced that the Asian wise-person is a girl. (I think it’s just the hair, myself.)

Though tradition tells us there were three, there may have been less or many more. I like to think there were 5—enough for Herod to take notice of, yet few enough to slip through his clutches later—but it really doesn’t matter. They were wisemen—

What does it mean to be a wiseman?

Well, these wismen came seeking a king—a Savior.

So many things we seek: knowledge, wealth, acceptance—but maybe if we were wise—truly wise—we’d seek the Savior. And once we found Him—we’d bring Him our gifts; we’d  fall on our knees, and worship him—the Savior of the world.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Of Shepherds and Angels

"And there were shepherds watching their flocks by night…” 

Who were these shepherds? Some of them might have been quite young—like David when he tended the family’s sheep. I see the shepherds as regular people, people who go to work each day, do their job, and are happy when something good comes their way.

I imagine they spent a great deal of time alone out in the wide, wild places of the world. There could be worse jobs.

Time alone gives one opportunity to ponder. Time in nature gives one plenty to ponder about. Shepherds may have dreamed big dreams, but each day probably found them walking the same hills and each night, guiding their flocks back to the fold.

Perhaps, they’d noticed a strange light in the sky. Perhaps, they were discussing this very phenomena when from the familiar heavens a host sang forth to them: “Glory to God in the Highest. Peace on earth; good will toward men!”

And as they bolted toward Bethlehem town, did any stay behind to care for the sheep? I bet you, not a one.

Angels are creatures of mystery, and it puzzles me that the whole village wasn’t awakened with their song. Maybe the heavenly beings chose only to reveal themselves to the shepherds. Maybe the shepherds alone had eyes to see them.

I desire to see beyond—to see beyond the shortsightedness of humanity. If the angels sang a song today, would I have ears to hear them and eyes to see? —to see the miracle within my reach?

Without wealth, fame, and admiration, the shepherds saw the angels from the world beyond—beyond humanity’s shores.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Portraits of the Nativity

Jay sometimes gets frustrated with the details and background information that I often give him when I’m recounting an event that’s happened. But hey, I’m an English teacher, and those elements happen to be meaningful to me.
So, this cold (and un-snowy) night, I’m thinking about the characters of the Christmas story that’ll be reiterated in countless homes this season—
My thoughts drift back over the changing of seasons—one century, two. Beyond globalization, past European domination, into the heart of civilization’s birthplace, to a tiny village so insignificant that later people would exclaim, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
From wooden figures on my mantel to living, working people, clothed in flesh, not so unlike my own—with aspirations, sorrows, perseverance, and joy—more characters of my imagination than biblical descriptions—I often picture Mary on the back of a donkey. I know nativity scenes must portray her gazing lovingly on the infant child, yet I still can’t help seeing her hunched over, wrapped in a blanket with the frigid winter wind chapping her cheeks.
This night the initial events of the coming Christ must have seemed so very far away—the angel’s visitation, those intimate conversations with Elizabeth, the hushed and private marriage ceremony, the dependable arm of Joseph she’d grown to lean on—
And now, they’d gathered their meager belongings to leave—to seek out refuge in Bethlehem. Certainly more than a census had whisked them out of Nazareth, away from family, condemning glances, the place she once called home.
And as she wrapped her covering more tightly, did it all seem too distant and too fantastic to actually believe?
Oh, how I have doubted in the harshness of life the path that once seemed so sure, so God’s will for me. Did Mary doubt too?
Did the small form in Mary’s womb ever seem more her baby than her God? Did she ever wish this happening on another? Did she ever simply wish for warmth and acceptance on a cold and blustery night?
Somehow, I always picture Mary on the back of a donkey—