Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Morning Thought: New is Not Always Better

New Is Not Always Better

            Okay, I know because of my degrees and seminary training that I am supposed to be supportive of the newer translations of the bible but quite frankly there are moments when new is not always better because something gets lost.  A good example is the famous Christmas story from Luke.
            I grew up on swaddling clothes instead of “bands of cloth.”  I also remember the line in those church Christmas pageants that I often participated in as a child when we heard that the shepherds were sore afraid rather than “terrified.”  So let me share with you why new is not always better.
            First of all to hear the words “bands of cloth” sounds rather mundane but if you look up the practice of swaddling it was done because the people in Mary and Joseph’s day believed that to not wrap the child tightly form head to toe after bathing the infant in salt would mean that the baby might just have crooked legs.  Now let’s just stop a minute and see the power of this practice.
            I mean Mary earlier had been visited by an angel and told that this child of hers was to be the Son of God.  There was to be no honeymoon fun to create the child.  This kid was coming without a middle-man.  Why wrap the child in the same package as other infants? 
            We need to hear swaddling because it is a different word; an old word for an old ordinary practice that mother’s used to help babies grow straight.  Jesus was real.
            We are in danger in our new age of being desensitized by those smiling wooden or plastic manger figures looking up at us from a neat tiny manger.  Jesus becomes “a figure” that is “nice.”  It becomes too easy to forget that he was the product of a woman’s labor.  I just witnessed my daughter’s labor as she birthed “her firstborn child and laid him in a…well…something new.”  Labor is for sure real.
            Mary may have had some help when it came to the conception but she received little when it came to the birth.  The birthing suite was not available and the mid-wife was off for the Christmas Eve holiday.  Mary might have whispered a prayer that night in the midst of smelly animals, “O my angel, where are you now?”
            And then Jesus was swaddled because after that birth and where it happened, Mary knew for sure what we need to remember; this wondrous child was one of us.  He had no wings.  The Wise Men would bring no magic wand.  He would be swaddled again in the not too distant future; this time by another Joseph of Arimathea who attempted to help the family find a place to bury their crucified son.
            He was swaddled.  He needed swaddling because he really was and is Emmanuel; God with us…really with us; then and now.
            And lastly; what about sore afraid? As an educated grown up I now know that “sore” simply means “very.”  Well, since Christmas begins as a children’s story what I remember as a child is that the shepherds were actually “sore;” you know as in muscle pain.  It all started out with people being “really sore.”  And here again the manger baby would sure end up being sore for us.  He would be “wounded for our transgressing…by his stripes we would be healed.”
            I like “sore” because everybody is terrified these days about something.  We lose the power of it all. 
            Jesus was swaddled and the shepherds were sore.  It is a sweet, wonderful story but it is more than the Christmas story.  It is the beginning of God becoming really real for us.  Sometimes new is not always better.  Thanks be to God.
            So with all this in mind, here is a poem about it all:

She Wrapped Him Tight

She wrapped him tight
but why?
Swaddling it was called
back then
So that legs would grow
strong and straight

But he was the child of
 an angel’s promise
Why go to the trouble
for he was
Surely straight from
the very start

But no, God meant to
make him real
So that finally a
very stubborn
People would realize
that God was real

God with us

Jody Seymour
Christmas 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Night Before Christmas: The Real Story

Twas the Night Before Christmas
(The “real” story)

Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the stable,
Not an animal was sleeping,
None of them were able.

Something special was ahead,
All the animals knew,
The cow couldn’t speak,
But he did say, “moo.”

A star was shinning,
Ever so bright,
And the donkey was nervous,
He was really uptight.

The animals could sense it,
But they really could not say,
So they tried to keep warm,
In the midst of the hay.

If the sheep could have spoken,
She would have shouted, “hoorah,”
But in the excitement,
It just came out, “bah.”

Something was stirring,
In the air that night,
That special star was in the sky,
Shedding its light.

Then out of the dark there appeared,
Such a clatter,
The animals wondered,
Just what was the matter.

The door slammed at the Inn,
And the sign read, “All Filled,”
And the stirring of animals,
Was suddenly stilled.

From out of the dark,
Came Joseph and Mary,
It was time for a birth,
And things were kind of scary.

Some angels flew by,
Knowing the hour was near,
And hurried off,
To sings songs of great cheer.

The first folks they found,
Were shepherds tending their sheep,
But news like this,
Just was not going to keep.

The angels broke into song,
The sky filled with joy,
And they told the shepherds,
About the birth of a boy.

“Hurry,” they said,
“And in a stable you’ll see,
The birth of your savior,
It’s the manger baby.”

The shepherds had trouble,
Believing their eyes,
It was angels they saw,
So they all gave high fives.

Meanwhile back at the stable,
Baby Jesus did appear,
Way before the pawing,
Of tiny reindeer.

Because it’s Jesus,
That gave Christmas its start,
Before Santa and Rudolf,
God gave us his heart.

In a manger of hay,
With animals for friends,
Baby Jesus was born,
That’s the way Christmas really begins.

The shepherds arrived,
The wise men three,
With presents at a stable,
With no Christmas tree.

So remember the night,
Animals wanted to speak,
And come to the manger,
For this child we must seek.

Before mistletoe and Jingle Bells,
Before Grinches and shopping,
Came the meaning of Christmas,
Before we ever hung a stocking.

So sing a song of good cheer,
Children in all times and all places,
For little boy Jesus,
Came to put a smile on your faces.

And as the curtain came down,
The animals thought, “What a sight.”
And Mary and Joseph whispered,
“Merry Christmas to all
and to all a good night.”

Jody Seymour

Monday, December 19, 2016

No Room: A Christmas Poem

No Room

Mary needed some room for
                                                                      answers to angel questions-
                                                              room to find a quiet place 
                                                                        away from locals who
                                                                        whispered rumors
                                                                         "who the father might be"

                                                               Joseph needed room for
                                                                          a steady assurance that
                                                                  dreams could be trusted
                                                                            as a place to bet
                                                                            your life and faith
                                                                   God could do the impossible

                                                                But there was no room
                                                                             that crowded night of fear
                                                                   so God used what God
                                                                              seems to always use
                                                                              to get hope born...
                                                                     who trust even when there
                                                                               is no room

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Deep Was the Night: A Christmas Poem

Deep Was the Night

Deep was the night
when shepherds discovered
what they were not
looking for

Not welcomed by townsfolk
unclean by religious
standards, they kept sheep
not rules

Accustomed to loneliness they
expected no notice
from on high for
they were too low

Yet into that deep night
there came something
like singing telling them
to fear not

But they had befriended fear-
fear of not enough
fear of steady rejection
fear of fear

So why did some proud
heavenly parent pick
such a band of
forgotten folk?

Perhaps because the manger child
was to be a shepherd
who would seek the lost
and tend the forgotten

Yes, deep was the night
only to be filled
with surprise and
shepherds were the first to know

Jody Seymour
Christmas 2016