Today is Epiphany – January 6th. Twelfth Night – down with that tree and away with that tinsel. Highlight of the season has been reading The First Christmas by Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan. This has given spiritual direction for this wonderful season. Borg and Crossan describe the birth stories of Matthew and Luke’s gospels as “parabolic overtures” for their whole gospel of joy and conflict – personal and political.
Today, Epiphany, focus is on the story of the visit of the Magi who travel one road and then return by another road. The road they travel is to the palace of Jerusalem. Of course, they would go that way. The way of the worldy wise is to the palace and the court. They discover how wrong they are. In Breugemann’s phrase, they finish “9 miles wide”, and discover their journey’s end (and their beginning – TS Eliot) to be not at the court of Herod but in the outbuildings of an inn in Bethlehem. Their return “by another road” signifies repentance – a change of mind – demanded by the Jesus of the Gospel. “They no longer walked the same path, but followed another way.”
Messrs Borg and Crossan wonder whether I am “like the Magi who follow the light and refuse to comply with the ruler’s plot to destroy it.” Or whether I am like Herod “filled with fear and willing to use whatever means necessary to maintain power, even violence and slaughter.” Am I among those “who yearn for the coming of the kingdom of justice and peace, who seek peace through justice”, or am I among those “advocates of imperial theology who seek peace through victory?”
Borg and Crossan refer to the three tenses of Christmas. Past, present and future – as retold by Charles Dickens in the Christmas Carol. Of the future tense they refer to three different understandings:
One is called “interventionist eschatology” – in which only God can bring about the new world.
The second is called “participatory eschatology” in which we are to participate with God in bringing about the world promised by Christmas.
The third involves letting go of eschatology altogether in which Christian hope is not about the transformation of this world.
Only the second is affirmed by Borg and Crossan – thankfully. “We who have seen the star and heard the angels sing are called to participate in the new birth and new world proclaimed by these stories.” They quote Augustine’s aphorism: “God without us will not; we without God cannot.”
We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? Then, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of God is begotten in us.
Meister Eckhart (14th century)
>I’m trying to keep Christmas out of Advent – but here’s the world’s first Beach Hut Advent Calendar where Christmas is very much part of Advent.
Advent is a time of waiting and hope. The trouble is that we forget that it’s the Kingdom of God we are waiting for and not Christmas. And it’s a long wait because God takes his time. The reading yesterday was one that I had never really taken in before.
Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8)
God’s not going to take any short cuts. If he did he would undermine his merciful nature and break his promise to his people. For the mean time he gives us his Spirit to encourage, strengthen and comfort us – to give good time in the bad times of waiting for wrongs to be righted and for kingdom come.
It is an adult Christ that the community encounters during the Advent and Christmas cycles of Sunday and feasts: a Risen Lord who invites sinful people to become the church. Christmas does not ask us to pretend we were back in Bethlehem, kneeling before a crib; it asks us to recognize that the wood of the crib became the wood of the cross.
—Nathan Mitchel, quoted in, LITURGY WITH STYLE AND GRACE by Gabe Huck and Gerald T. Chinchar. (Archdiocese of Chicago, Liturgy Training Publications, 1998, page 97. Paper, ISBN 1-56854-186-4 in Preachers’ Exchange
May God bless you with DISCOMFORT …
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with ANGER …
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with TEARS …
To shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war.
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And to turn their pain into JOY.
And may God bless you with enough FOOLISHNESS…
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can DO what others claim cannot be done. Amen
A Franciscan Benediction