Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An After Christmas Pre-Easter Wish

Ok, so I know I have these strange thoughts but since Jimmy Stewart and his wish that it would be better "if he had never been born" is still hanging around my mind I wonder what would have happened if Jesus had a angel show up that night in the garden when he felt so all alone and fogotten? Like Clerence, this angel might have heard Jesus in his agony say something like, "Maybe it would be better if I had not come."

After all it seemed that all was lost. Those he depended on were sleeping off that last glass of wine. The guy who was the treasurer for the group was out adding to his take with a fresh 30 pieces of silver and wouold soon cash in on the deal. Maybe it would be better if Jesus "had never been born."

Can't you see some aspiring angel look up and say something like, "Well what do you think. It might work. Maybe this would help him out if he could see that he really does and will make a difference."

Then zap it happens. Jesus gets to see a world where he was never born. It all happens quick because it has to. After all Judas is on the way over with his merry men and the disciples are almost ready to wake from their reoccurring nightmares that what is getting ready to happen might happen.

Jesus in a flash gets to see Peter and his brothers out fishing...not for people, for fish and that's all it will ever be. Matthew is sitll sitting at his tax table exercising his right to cheat whomever he fells like cheating. Thomas fills his days with skepticism and doubt and will have no reason to ever believe without seeing.

The only one who seems better off is Judas who truly is better off because Jesus never shows up. Then there is the rest of a flash of time Jesus is shown a world where he is not. For one, Jody never has a vision of hands reaching out to him at age 17 and touching his own hands as if to say, "I want you to be one of my ministers." Jody ends up being...well...maybe a teacher or a UPS driver....or something...anything but a minister of a church that does not exist...

And the world...would we even be here or would we have gone done a path of self-destruction where there are no schools or hospitals that bear his name? And of course there would be no churches where people light candles on Christmas Eve and sing "Silent Night" hoping that the dark outside is not the final answer to life.

So Jesus for an instance gets his wish to glimpse a world where he was never born...He wipes the sweat from his brow, nods toward "his" angel...whispers something about "not my will but thine be done" and allows the drama to continue....but perhaps with a bit more assurance that his life and upcoming death really will make a difference.

So its time to take the Christmas tree to the street and put the manger scene back in the attic...but hey, in spite of the dark and all the heavy stuff of life because he "was" born it's a wonderful life...


Friday, December 24, 2010

A Snowglobe Christmas

Suspended snow swirled around her. She was frozen but it was not because of the temperature. Her gaze was transfixed on the child. She would not take her eyes off his face even though the snow seemed to blow into her wide open eyes.

As the scene unfolded without unfolding "Silent Night" played from somewhere beneath the holy couple. They were captured in a world all their own. Unlike that first still night they were protected. The elements that would in reality be bitter and cold did no harm to them now.

Snowglobes are a sweet way to remember a not so sweet story. These snowy renditions are like our manger scenes. They come out once a year and adorn our homes, but the "real" characters of that first Christmas, that we now freeze-dry to remind us of the story, were not surrounded by a glass dome or packed away in Styrofoam peanuts for safe keeping. They were probably cold and for sure they were homeless.

For the real-life Joseph and Mary there really was "no room" and the smell of animals was ...well...the smell of animals. Snowglobes are really wonderful but they are not "real." The real Mary felt the pain of her labor. Joseph still wondered how this could be happening. An innkeeper figured these folks possessed really poor judgement for being out on a night like this with a child so close to being born. Those real shepherds would not have been welcomed in town because of their reputations as riffraff, thieves, and scoundrels. (Yes snow globes may clean them up but shepherds were at the bottom of the food chain back then.)

So wind up those snowglobes and let them play their music while soft flurries surround a frozen baby. But rest assured that the reality is that it was a labor of love. For Christmas Eve this year I'm using a song by that name...just so that we will remember that the story is "real."

Here are the words of the song to help us remember the "real" story:

Labor of Love/ lyrics by Andrew Peterson

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town
And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of love
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night
So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of love....

So just as Jimmy Stewart in the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," "woke up" from his dream-like trip to a world where he no longer existed to discover that he was in fact "real, imagine a frozen Joseph escaping from your snowglobe to run through you house screaming, "Merry Christmas world!"

O holy child of Bethlehem be born in us today.


Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas Identity Crisis

Each year at Christmas I have this identity crisis. The Sunday before Christmas it is my tradition to take on a "character" in the Christmas story. I've been the innkeeper, a shepherd, a wise man, Herod (mean, nasty guy), Joseph (a confused "dad"), a guy who happened to be staying at the inn that night(lucky fella got a room)...and one year I attempted to be Gabriel...I'm not doing that one again. I simply cannot be an angel. Ask Betsy.

So this year as you can see I've run out of anyone near the manger that night...but alas...there had to be other people in Bethlehem that did not get into the least into the Bible's version of the scene. So using the old imagination I discovered this potter who lived in Bethlehem. I woke up in the middle of the night to "let him out" now he is on the printed page. I'll bring him to life this Sunday in church.

I never know who these people "are" until I put words to paper. Can you guess what Christmas present the potter ends up giving? ..... Give up? He gives him a chalice...a cup. Mary promises to tell her baby when he grows up about this gift of love given that night. The potter ends up following the adult Jesus around later. Because of some interesting circumstances the potter finds himself nearby when Jesus and his friends have a meal.

Yes, you get the picture. Jesus lifts the Christmas gift that night at the table and says, "Take this...take this is a gift of love." Merry Christmas world. It is a gift of love.

I also woke up in the middle of the night with a poem to go with the here it is:

The Cradle and the Cup

Empty that first crystal
clear evening-
the wood waited
food for familiar guests

But suddenly it was
full of hope-
a manger that
a cradle for a child

What it held was love
for a waiting world
but the cradle was
the beginning of the journey

Empty was the cup
that night
he lifted it to
out a covenant of healing

His lonely mind remembered
as he poured-
a story from Mary
of a cradle
filled with surprise that night

So that evening filled with words
of invitation
to "take and drink"
he thought of
the cradle and the cup

And as he looked into
their eyes
he saw how empty
they were
and what was needed

So now again we have the
cradle and the cup
so both may be
filled anew
for the world's waiting emptiness

God with us
cradle and the cup

Blessed Christmas

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Christmas Mirror/ My Annual Christmas Poem

The Christmas Mirror

It was her own reflection
that she glimpsed
the first night
she looked into
his eyes

Those eyes-they seemed
to already know
so much even
though he was
newly born

Mary saw herself in
this mirror of
love that was after
all a whispered
miracle of God

So now close your own eyes
and try to imagine
his eyes looking
into yours for
is what Christmas
really is-
You too are God's child.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

How John the Baptist Stole Christmas

If you read Matthew 3: 1-12 you will hear crazy old John screaming in the wilderness yet again this year. Between the bugs in his teeth and his sweet tooth he shouts words to the church folks who've come out to hear him. With breath that smells of "wild honey" and left over locusts John tells the people of First Church Jerusalem that they are no better than snakes and that they better shape up or their family "trees" are going to get the ax.

Wow, Merry Christmas to you too John. John thinks that before we get to the Christmas carols and sweet baby Jesus that we need to clean up our act. He sounds like a combination of Euell Gibbons (you know the "wild hickory nut" guy who used to advertise Grape Nuts cereal) and a street preacher. So John eats his natural wild honey and it energies him to scream "repent before it's too late. " Sounds like the Grinch to me....but his words of warning for us to "repent" are simply his way of saying that if we are going to unwrap the present that comes in the manger we need to "change direction" and find some new ways to think and act. Repent simply means to turn and go another way.

So for my folks this past Sunday and for you out there in the Blogosphere I've composed "How John the Baptist Stole Christmas."
Here you go....Blessed Advent to you.

All the religious types in Jerusalem
Liked Christmas a lot
But John who lived out in the desert did not
He ate bugs and sipped honey
No one quite knows the reason
But he kept screaming "Repent,
Before you get to this season"

He yelled and he yelled at the
Church folks who came
He told them their religion
Was nothing but lame
With all of them wanting
Their tensel and glitter
John said it was all going
To turn to cat litter

"There's one coming whose ax will
Cut your Christmas trees down
Santa Claus this year will
Not come to your town
One's coming to separate the
Wheat from the chaff
No need to wrap all those
Presents you have
You better come clean and
Get right with God
Then up the chimney John went
With a blink and a nod
(O Well I'm combining stories patient)

The people were left with stockings
Empty and hanging
While sugarplums and questions
Filled their heads with a banging

Perhaps Christmas cannot happen
Until we come clean
Just what did old John in fact
Really mean?
Turn around, turn around before
It's too late
All those shopping days until Christmas
Will Just have to wait

John's message is clear but it's
Not popular now
He says, "If you want to come
This year to the manger and bow
You have to shed your old skin
As does a snake
When it comes to the Christmas rush
You must put on the brake
It's time for a change in
Some of your ways
It's time to rearrange the way
You've been spending your days

So for Christmas to come no
Grinch heart needs to grow
It's your heart my friend
That must change and must know
That the best Christmas present
You can give the Christ child
Is the change in y0ur heart you've
Been putting off for a while

So this Advent season John
Sounds like the Grinch
And yes his words are like lightning
That may cause you to flinch
So get ready for Christmas by
Not just putting up a tree
Get ready for Christmas by
Repenting you see
For what God wants from all the
Church folks this year
Is a heart full of love
Not a cup full of cheer

John's words in the desert-they come
With a reason
To help us get ready for
The whole Christmas season
"Turn around," he says with
Bugs in his teeth
And John the Baptist himself
Hung a giant Christmas wreath.

Bless you