Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

No Crying He Makes?

Away in a Manger used to be my favorite Christmas hymn and I still think it’s a lovely tune. But I have become critical of it on account of the “no crying he makes” line.

NoCrying

I mean, are we really saying that Jesus wouldn’t have cried? It’s a sign of health when a baby cries; a baby communicates his or her needs through crying!

If* the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus is real, then Jesus cried as a baby.

But this year my son noted that Away in a Manger is kinda babyish. And that prompted me to reflect some more on the lyrics and melody. I gave it some thought and I realized it’s a lullaby. So, yeah, maybe it is kinda babyish.

But also, it occurred to me that as a lullaby, its purpose is to quell cries, to calm a baby or young child.

With that, I thought maybe the line about “no crying he makes” is actually be more of a hope or vision of the lyricist. I mean, as much as we might want scream, “hey kid, knock it off with the crying already!”, that’s only gonna terrorize the infant worse. A positive, future projection of a cessation of crying all packaged in a soothing song is much more gracious.

So, maybe the songwriter never was trying to claim that the baby Jesus wasn’t a crier, rather that he was. He really cried. Because he was a real baby. And babies cry.

And would they please stop already!?

_______

*Of course, I believe it is.

Let It Be – A Dramatic Monologue from the Perspective of Mary

This dramatic, in-character monologue is what I imagine as the continuation of Mary’s story after she hears that she is to bear God’s son as recorded in Luke 1:26-38.

I wrote and presented this at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Greenvine, TX on the 4th Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2014.

Click the following link to listen to the monologue or scroll down to read the manuscript:

http://www.spreaker.com/user/5989422/let-it-be-dramatic-monologue

 

Let It Be

Part 1: Who Me?

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” That’s what I told the angel Gabriel.

“Yes, sir, Gabriel, sir!”

So obedient…like a good little soldier taking orders.

I’ve watched the Roman soldiers enough to see them take their orders. They occupy our land to “keep the peace” by intimidation and threats…or worse. Is there even a soul inside those dutiful shells?

But my orders are from The Lord, the God of my ancestors. I am The Lord’s servant!

Yes, here am I, the servant of the Lord!

But…to let it be with me as Gabriel said? What have I gotten myself into? I’m not ready for a baby. I’m not even married yet!

Oh, this is too much. This is too much, Lord!

I knew my life was changing when I became betrothed to Joseph. I know I’m not the care-free child I was. My mother has been preparing me for my life with Joseph—like she’s trying to fit all the lessons of womanhood in these last few months before we are married.

And of course, I knew that motherhood would come soon after our marriage. Oh, how I have longed to hold a child of my own in my arms!

But this news from the angel Gabriel? Nothing in all of my mother’s lessons prepared me for this.
But sure, Gabriel, “let it be with me according to your word!”

Yet, what else could I say?! It’s not every day an angel of the Lord comes to some random daughter of Israel with such a high, holy commission.

 

Part 2: The Hope of Israel

The angel said I have found favor with God and I am to bear our long-awaited Messiah—God’s Chosen One!

Yes, of course, I’ll do it, Lord. I am your servant. Let it be, let it all be as your angel has said.

This child—my child—will be the fulfillment of the hope of all of Israel—and all the nations of the world will be blessed through this child. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, longing for.

Our land, promised to Abraham, is not our own. We live under these filthy Romans.

But to have our kingdom restored forever? To have my son sit on the throne of his ancestor David?

We will never have to suffer under this foreign army ever again. The Lord has remembered his promises to his faithful servants!

Yes! Let it be Lord! Let it come to pass at last! Lift us up from under the feet of our oppressors and restore us once more!

 

Part 3: Disgrace

Yes, I am to bear the Chosen One because I have found favor with God!

But the timing is a bit perplexing. The angel Gabriel said the time was “now” for this child to be conceived. I asked how exactly that was going to happen since I have not, ahem, been with a man.

The answer was something about the Holy Spirit…It’s all very strange and perplexing.

And as for Joseph, how am I going to explain this to him?

“Well Joseph, you see, the angel Gabriel visited me and said that God was putting the Messiah in my womb.” And if that doesn’t convince him, I’ll just be sure and let him know it’s because I have found favor with God.

Ha!

It will never work. Lord, this will never work! I’m not saying I won’t do it…I just, I know what he will think. I know he will think I have been with another man.

And I know what the law says could happen to me if that is what he thinks. I could be stoned to death.

Lord, I am willing to let it be with me as your angel has said, but I’m not sure if I can sell this Holy Spirit business to Joseph. I confess I do not understand it myself.

 

Part 4: What Kind of Man is Joseph?

How can I explain to Joseph these…circumstances? I realize now how little I know him, how little I know what to say to him, how to explain…myself…to him.

Lord, you know me through and through. I cannot understand how, why you are giving me—me!—this honor.

But this “honor” will only end in my disgrace unless Joseph is the kind of man who will hear me and understand and see your hand in this.

Oh Lord, I cannot explain it to him myself. If I had the power to persuade, I would say a great many things—I would right all the wrongs of this world with my voice.

But words fail me. Power eludes me.

I am your lowly servant. I will do what you say. But on this Lord, I must insist: you must go to Joseph, send your angel, send however many angels it takes to convince him that this is your plan, your doing.

 

Part 5: God Keeps His Promises

Indeed Lord, it is your plan. And it seems impossible.

But your angel reminded me that nothing is impossible with you, oh, Lord.

“Remember your cousin Elizabeth?” Gabriel reminded me.

Dear, sweet Elizabeth.

She has waited so long for her arms to be filled with a child. She had given up hope of ever having a baby of her own.

Oh, the ways you work, Lord! What a wonder! Elizabeth—who we all thought could never have a baby—is six months pregnant—her belly getting bigger by the minute!

Elizabeth who couldn’t be pregnant and I who shouldn’t be pregnant!

If you can work this miracle for Elizabeth, Gabriel is right! Nothing is impossible with you, Oh Most High!

And so I trust you, Lord, my Lord. I know you can do this. I don’t know how, but I know you can, you will! You are faithful to keep your promises and you will do all that the angel said!

And you will deal with Joseph?

Of course you will. I trust you will, and you can!

This is a wonder! I must go and tell my cousin Elizabeth of this news at once!

I am your servant Lord! Let it be with me as you have said!

 

Christmas Glow

Light in Darkness

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. John 1

 

Light has always been an important symbol of Christmas for me.

In 8th grade I wrote a short story about a teenage young woman who was having trouble getting into the “Christmas spirit.” No matter what she did, she couldn’t work up the giddiness she used to feel about the season.

Then in church on Christmas Eve, during the candle lighting ceremony, she had an epiphany. The warm glow of the lights around the darkened sanctuary reminded her of the Good News of Jesus coming into the world to bring the light of God’s love to all people.

The story was a fictional representation of what was in my own heart–and often still is. I don’t get giddy about Christmas anymore like I did when I was a little kid. A lot of the “magic” of Christmas has faded in its importance and impressiveness in my heart and mind.

But this news–that God brings light to our darkness–I need that every-always.

If I’m going to feel anything special at Christmas, it’s almost certain it will involve light (or gel pens, but that’s kind-of the same thing).

During Christmas break in 1994, while I was engaged to my now husband, I got to go as his date to his brother’s wedding in Florida. I was in college in Kentucky at the time and went home to Ohio for Christmas and had my wisdom teeth pulled right after Christmas. I was miserable, but didn’t want to miss the wedding–the first wedding among my now husband and his siblings!

My now sister-in-law Angela was from the area where the wedding was, so she had insider knowledge on local attractions. One of the nights we were there Angela wanted to take us all to a Christmas village of some kind. I didn’t know what to expect and my mouth was sore, and I was weary from travel, so I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go.

But I am so glad I did!

The Christmas village was this whole lot filled with sweetly painted wooden-facade little houses and buildings. All of the little structures were decorated in lights. You could go up and down the “streets” of this village and see all of the places lit up.

I don’t even remember if there was anything distinctively Christian about the display, but the light–Oh! All those lights! They lit up my heart that night and I will always remember the night Angela took us there.

To this day, even if I can’t manufacture any “Christmas spirit,” I am filled with hope, awe, and wonder when I see peeps of light at Christmas in candle lighting ceremonies and light displays.

There’s something about light shining in darkness that speaks to my heart in a way that daylight or a brightly lit room doesn’t quite do.

I often think of my depression as darkness as worries close in on me, and my sense of worth dims. So, I understand darkness all too well. So when tiny lights defy the darkness, I am reminded that God–my God–is bigger than my darkness.

My favorite Psalm says it this way, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:11-12)

Even in my darkness, my God sees me and knows me and loves me.

Once again this Christmas, I can’t seem to manufacture that giddy Christmas feeling of my childhood. But the glow of God’s love fills me with hope at Christmas time–and always.

May you too know God’s love with a tenacious hope that defies darkness.

Want to Simplify this Christmas?

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The pressure is on to find the right gifts for everyone on your list, to prepare the perfect holiday meal, and to make it to every party. With all the obligations of the season though, can anyone remember what Christmas is all about? Something about a baby—Oh no! I forgot to put the Smith family’s new baby on my shopping list!

Oftentimes we lament the consumerism of the season, but we can’t quite seem to back our sleigh ride away from that slippery slope. Over the years I’ve dabbled with various ideas of simplifying my celebrations to focus on what is most important to me: faith, family, and friends.

In my latest post at Life & Liberty Online Magazine, I wrote a sampling of ideas to help you be more deliberate about how you spend your time and money this holiday season. You can read the full text of the article over there, but here is the basic list broken down by three categories, gift-giving, cooking, and celebrations…

 

Put Joy (Back) Into Gift-Giving

  1. Shorten the gift-giving list.
  2. Make gifts using a craft or skill that is truly enjoyable.
  3. Create gift baskets.
  4. Make a music mix.
  5. Give a copy of a favorite book.
  6. Give gift cards/certificates.
  7. Give a membership.
  8. Write an original story or poetry collection and give it as a gift.
  9. Give yourself permission to give the same gift to more than one person on your list.
  10. Give family gifts.

For more on any of these gift-giving ideas, read my full commentary on my post, “Tis the Season to Simplify,” at Life & Liberty.

 

Cook Up some Holiday Spirit

  1. Consider potluck.
  2. Say “yes” when someone offers to bring something.
  3. Choose simpler preparations for at least some of your dishes.
  4. Stick with what you know.

For more on any of these cooking ideas, read my full commentary on my post, “Tis the Season to Simplify,” at Life & Liberty.

 

Keep the Merry in Your Merry-Making

  1. Rethink “White Elephant” parties.
  2. Make kits to give away to charities.
  3. Enjoy the arts together.
  4. See the lights!
  5. Serve together.
  6. Make a special treat or meal together.
  7. Reschedule your celebration for a less-rushed time.

For more on any of these celebration ideas, read my full commentary on my post, “Tis the Season to Simplify,” at Life & Liberty.

 

Pick and choose from this list, take or leave what works for you and helps you have the most joy this holiday season.

Come As You Are Christmas

ComeAsYouAre

I don’t know how you feel about getting dressed up, but I used to fight it like mad. In this “Come As You Are Christmas” sermon that I preached at a nearby church for Christmas Eve, I play with this idea of dressing up. What kind of attire impresses God? The Bible story about the shepherds learning about the newborn savior gives us some important clues about what it takes to get God’s attention (See Luke 2:1-20).

Click the title below to read the sermon at Life & Liberty:

Come As You Are Christmas