Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I Wonder About Christmas

I wonder if I’ve so romanticized and sanitized that first Christmas that I’ve missed the truth.  If the Christ-child were around Lexington today, would I notice?  The reality of that first Christmas was less than pleasant.  Mary was an unwed mother.  She and Joseph were forced to travel for reasons of obligatory census which had to do with taxation.  Their travel was at a most difficult time as it was Mary’s late term pregnancy.  Their accommodations in Bethlehem were less than the best.  I even wonder why some of Joseph’s extended family didn’t provide them hospitality since it was his ancestor’s home.   Who helped Mary with the birth?  Was it Joseph?  Perhaps it was some of the Shepherds as they would have known something about birthing lambs.  A couple of years after the first Christmas, the family became refugees fleeing the violence of a ruler.  That first Christmas and those couple of years that followed were not pleasant times. 

Near our Counseling Center is a home for unwed mothers.  These young women and their infants often walk around our neighborhood.  I sometimes wonder if this is what Mary experienced with her new born infant.  Around the corner from the Center is a ministry helping to settle immigrants and refugees in the Lexington area.  Could there be a “Holy Family” among them?  When it is a rainy night, there is a man and woman who sleep on the Center’s porch because the local shelter for the homeless won’t let them stay the night together.  Did Joseph and Mary experience something similar?

Perhaps what I really need this Christmas is some nudging from the angels, who nudged the shepherds, so I can better recognize what God is doing on Christmas.  Whatever else Christmas may mean, the truth of Christmas or the incarnation is that “The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5b).  If that is still true then the Lord is near even in my little corner of Lexington, Kentucky; and Christmas is still happening, only not necessarily as I think, expect, imagine or want it to happen.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Could It Be?

In the 25th chapter of Matthew, verses 31 - 46, Jesus says that the final judgement will involve the "goats" failed, whereas those he called "sheep," passed.  The difference was the "sheep" cared for the hungry, thirsty, strangers, sick, naked and even imprisoned.  Jesus said, "When you did it to the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me."  Could it be that that Jesus is among us today--not just in spirit, but really incarnated.  The problem seems to be that we probably wouldn't recognize Jesus.  We wouldn't recognize him because we've become blinded by our expectations.  Jesus might not show up in the style, manner, dress, language, etc. we are expecting.  If there is some truth in Matthew 25, then Jesus must be among those who are not too healthy, poorly dressed, hungry, strangers to us and, perhaps, even incarcerated.  In the first century, according to the birth narratives in the gospels, Jesus showed up as an infant whose birth was suspect as illegitimate.  In his childhood, he and the family had to became immigrants and refugees because of violence in their home country.  Jesus, as a child or an adult, wasn't recognized because the religious folks who were eagerly waiting for Jesus, expected that he would be different.  So, it wouldn't be unusual for us if we didn't recognize him either.  He doesn't seem to respond to our expectations, which are selfish attempts to make Jesus to become the person we want him.  He just won't permit us to be the Creator.  I believe that Matthew 25 is true and, therefore, I often wonder if Jesus is actually standing among the homeless on the corner; sitting with those waiting at the city's soup kitchens or looking for a warm coat to protect himself from the Kentucky winter.  Could it even be possible that Jesus is even in jail because "we don't want 'those kind' roaming our streets and neighborhoods?"