Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Holding on to Christmas, or The other side of Christmas


Geraldine's family is growing.....

On a freezing cold day, i make my way through the ever worsening subway system and somehow get to Beverley Church.

We could've gone  one of  two ways today..either the Baptism of Jesus or Three Kings...We'll have time to look at Jesus' baptism again in I wanted to go with the Three's like we need them to finish our Christmas. And I'm a believer in holding onto Christmas as long as we can.  In our house, we always wait until the last week before Christmas to put up our tree and then leave it up until January  6th...Epiphany....And for our friends in the Orthodox Churches, this  is their Christmas, old Christmas, Eastern Christmas. When I was growing up, our local paper always had an op ed honoring their celebration. So we today have one final day of Christmas.

Especially since the secular commercial Christmas begins right after Halloween, I want to keep the spiritual, Christmas of faith on its own...all twelve days...

And at West Park Church, when we were a fully bilingual congregation, this was a very special day for us, Three Kings Day, el dia de los tres reyes magos. That  was the day of our Christmas pageant and procession.  And our Latino members always had special gifts for everyone..and we had rosca de reyes...a special Mexican bread for the day...with a little baby Jesus inside..and whoever had the baby Jesus had to host a party.....usually with traditional today we will welcome and honor the kings.

Luke has the shepherds and the stable, Matthew the kings, and if you look close, (2:11), they went into a house..that's where the tradition came from that they actually arrived about a year later. We like to mash them up all these scenes together, like with the live camels and the procession at Radio City Music Hall...

And it doesn't say three, though there are three gifts...and they got the gifts ...and camels from Isaiah, but Matthew adds a foretaste of what will come...

This is  a nativity for adults. My friend Pastor Heidi Neumark of Trinity Lutheran wants us to keep Herod in Christmas.  Driven by fear, Herod winds up murdering all the children under two...there is of course no external verification of thi story....but this was so common or Herod .that a relatively small massacre in a small  hill country    town would not be making the news...Herod was so afraid of losing power he even murdered his own the deaths of these poor people in Bethlehem wouldn't be noticed.

Pastor Heidi says:
We Christians like to talk about putting Christ back into Christmas, but let's not forget to put Herod back into Christmas. Herod represents the dark side of the gospel. He reminds us that Jesus didn't enter a world of sparkly Christmas cards or a world of warm spiritual sentiment. Jesus enters a world of real pain, of serious dysfunction, a world of brokenness and political oppression. Jesus was born an outcast, a homeless person, a refugee, and finally he becomes a victim to the powers that be. Jesus is the perfect savior for outcasts, refugees, and nobodies. That's how the church is described in scripture time and time again - not as the best and the brightest - but those who in their weakness become a sign for the world of the wisdom and power of God. from Joy Carroll Wallis

This kind  of violence is certainly part                                                                                             of our own history. Last week I saw the new movie"Hostiles" . it takes place in the waning days of the US government conflict with Native Americans. Christian Bale  a longtime "Indian fighter" who is assigned to accompany an Indian leader (Wes Studie)back to his home  in Montana. Along the way, old enemies have to find way to live together, work together in order to survive. Along the way they  come to  respect each others integrity. Importantly, it is not the liberals, eastern journalists,etc.. who never actually   encountered one another  but those who truly engaged with ine another, vs "hostiles" ...who show the way towards reconciliation.

So....Free people see Rome for what it is... There is enough love to drive out fear..

God is in and with all the these stories. A light glimmers on the horizon and the darkness has not overcome it

And so the Holy family flees to to refugees...many traditions grew up around their time there...they'll even show you where they stayed.....One of my youth group advisors suggested they used the gifts      to pay for the trip to Egypt.        ,                                                                                                                              

So what do we make  of  all this?

God places God's child in the hands  of fallible human beings...just like us.  Herod, the powerful one, is afraid.
Joseph, who has nothing but a dream, is not.
Ready to start as journey into a new year. Much to frighten us. We're called upon to face our own Herods.  And go home by another way?  Once you've come to know Jesus,you just can't go back the same way. It's got to be. new.  What's our new way home look like? You tell me....

Here is James Taylor's song, "Home by another way":

Home by another way . James Taylor
Those magic men the Magi
Some people call them wise
Or Oriental, even kings
Well anyway, those guys
They visited with Jesus
They sure enjoyed their stay
Then warned in a dream of King Herod's scheme
They went home by another way

Yes they went home by another way
Home by another way
Maybe me and you can be wise guys too
And go home by another way
We can make it another way
Safe home as they used to say
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high
And go home another way

Steer clear of royal welcomes
Avoid a big to-do
A king who would slaughter the innocents
Will not cut a deal for you
He really, really wants those presents
He'll comb your camel's fur
Until his boys announce they've found trace amounts
Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh

Time to go home by another way
Home by another way
You have to figure the Gods saying play the odds
And go home by another way
We can make it another way
Safe home as they used to say
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high
And go home another way

Home is where they want you now
You can more or less assume that you'll be welcome in the end
Mustn't let King Herod haunt you so
Or fantasize his features when you're looking at a friend

Well it pleasures me to be here
And to sing this song tonight
They tell me that life is a miracle
And I figured that they're right
But Herod's always out there
He's got our cards on file
It's a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch
Old Herod likes to take a mile

It's best to go home by another way
Home by another way
We got this far to a lucky star
But tomorrow is another day
We can make it another way
Safe home as they used to say
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high
And go home another way

So as God entrusts God's children to fallible human belongs, God entrusts us to each  other. And we will walk with each other as we find our way home.  

And so we share our communion.  And a hot cup of coffee. And unavoidably back out into the cold. 
(Like -14 degrees Centigrade!)

Happy New Year!

Matthew 2: 1-12
[1] Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 
[2] "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." 
[3] When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 
[4] and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 
[5] They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 
[6] `And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel.'"
[7] Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; 
[8] and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." 
[9] When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. 
[10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; 
[11] and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 

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