Christmas Meditation Year A

Luke 2:1-14 Exhausting. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of Mary and Joseph’s ninety mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the Roman census.  That trek is equivalent traveling from here to Falls River, Massachusetts by foot or by animal. Ninety exhausting miles. As Joseph and a very pregnant Mary plodded one foot in front of the other, their hamstrings ached, their backs were sore and their arms wearied from leading the pack animals.  They fantasized about what it would be like to finally arrive Bethlehem … with a warm bed and hot food.  As they continued, they wondered if they would ever get to Bethlehem.  Sometimes their trip felt endless.  When an angel had first appeared to Mary and foretold the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had both thought things would be different – like Mary would be treated with reverence or at least been allowed to get out of this whole traveling to Bethlehem thing.  But here they were, dressed in dirty, ragged clothing, plodding through the wilderness fantasizing about food and beds. Just like any other dirty, smelly pilgrim. It was ironic that their child’s name was supposed to be Jesus, which meant salvation, because Joseph and Mary could use some salvation right about now, salvation from the bone-crushing weariness, salvation from the monotony of their days, salvation from the oppressive Roman empire, salvation from their fellow human beings who were full […]

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Lessons from Joseph

Isaiah 7:10-16 Matthew 1:18-25 Who has shaped your faith? That is a question not just for us but for Joseph. Who shaped Joseph’s faith?  The Gospel of Matthew answers this question by spending the first seventeen verses of the book telling us that so-and-so begot so-and-so who begot so-and-so, covering twenty-eight generations all the way back to Abraham and Sarah.  This genealogy lesson reminds us that Joseph did not grow up in a vacuum, but rather descended from a long life of people who wrestled with faith and experienced God’s love.  Mary and Joseph in turn taught these values to Jesus.  Jesus did not just show up and happen to be a loving justice-oriented person rather Jesus learned these values from those who had gone before him. We pass on our faith from generation to generation. Who has shaped your faith?  Who has brought you to this moment in your spiritual journey, to this church, to this denomination, to this faith? Perhaps it was a stranger who helped you, a Sunday School teacher who taught you, a feisty member of the community who care when nobody else did. Who has shaped your faith? I have been thinking about that question this week.  I am Baptist because my great-grandmother raised my grandfather as a Baptist and when he moved with my grandmother to Washington DC, they joined Calvary Baptist church, a church on the edge of China town, where they raised […]

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Singing for Joy

Isaiah 35:1-10 Luke 1:46b-55 Matthew 11:2-11 Psalm 130 reads, “I wait for God more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Third shift.  This psalm refers to watchmen who pull the third shift 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.  The watchmen stand on the stone walls of their towns and look forth into the darkness.  With no artificial light, all they can do is stand and wait, listening to each rustle of the leaves and crack of the stick.  Their only light is the moon, the stars and the nearby torch. (1) Third shift.  The sentries stand at their post, watching in anticipation for the first dawn light.   The psalmist tells us that joy comes in the morning, but what if, what if joy also comes in the evening, when we are pulling the third shift and waiting in the brisk, cold night-time air?  What if joy comes not only with the morning but also with the darkest hour of the night? This is a question not only for us but also for the Israelites exiled in Babylon.  Uprooted from their homes and all that was familiar, the Israelites remembered joy only as a faint memory or an old friend who had not visited for a long time.  They had forgotten what joy looked like, or how she laughed or what her mannerisms were. They wondered: how do we sing a song of God in […]

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A Growing Tenderness

Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19, Matthew 3:1-12 “Get a job.” I wonder if that was a comment yelled at John the Baptist as he wandered the wilderness in camel hair clothing, eating honey and locust.  As a desert wanderer, John the Baptist likely smelled pretty dirty and looked kinda grungy.  I wondered, if while he shouted, “Prepare the way of our God, make straight the paths of God,” if people side-eyed him and muttered, “that guy should get a job.” I wonder this because we, as human beings, seem to have this tendency to dismiss people, Divine messages and even God when it does not look how we expect. “Get a job.” These are the words that Amanda Palmer heard when she went to work as a street artist in the form of  a self-employed living statue. Now a full-time musician, Amanda had worked for five years as a living statue.  She would paint herself up and go out into the streets, stand on a box and put a hat at her feet.  Wherever people put money in, she would give them a flower and some intense eye contact.  Amanda reports that this led to some profound encounters with people, especially lonely people who looked like they hadn’t talked to anyone for weeks.  Amanda and these people would get this beautiful moment of prolonged eye contact being allowed in the city streets and they’d feel this connection.  Amanda’s eyes would […]

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