Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Astrologers & Outsiders

here's scripture to read for Christmas:

Luke 2

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Prostitutes, embezzlers, Roman soldiers, heretics, lepers, and the general sin-laden population of Palestine are the people Jesus spent much of his time with during his three year stint as a traveling rabbi as recorded in the canonical gospels (should anyone actually read just one of the accounts of Jesus in the New Testament - the four gospels are short and are worth the small amount of time it takes to read even just one of them - go to and just start reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). It seems the Kingdom of God as Jesus reveals is a Kingdom for those who aren't always the 'right' people, or the good people, or the religious people, or the morally excellent people . . . but for people who are . . . opposite to all of that. It seems Jesus points to a kingdom for outsiders?

And should we expect anything different at the beginning of Jesus' life? It's the shepherds (think uneducated, blue-collar, tough bastards who spent most of their time talking to sheep and had little time for daily religious life) and magi (think foreigners from a different kingdom who worshiped a different god and spent a good portion of their time looking at the stars for spiritual signs - a practice expressly forbidden in the Scriptures of Jesus' day) who are the kind of people who end up holding court in Bethlehem in order to pay homage to the child-king (though at different times - the magi were probably with Jesus' family when Jesus was at least two or three).

Outsiders the lot of them.

It seems we have such a hard time wrapping our heads around this theme . . .
We want our God predictable, neat, and nicely wrapped in our theological Christmas packages. We don't want a Kingdom that terrifies us in the middle of the night while we're minding our own business and talking to our sheep.

But it happens anyway - irregardless of what you or I want.

What if the events and the people and the experiences in our lives that we have relegated as being outside the religious sphere (our moral decadence, our irreverence, our secret pain, our addictions, our confusion) are precisely and preposterously what the Kingdom of God sends angels and stars as invitations to - so we can hurry off with the shepherds and join the celebration of a ridiculous birthday in a manger where a teenage mother and a confused refugee father sit amongst animals watching an infant eat, cry, defecate, and cry some more - asking themselves what next?

Indeed may we find ourselves asking the same question - because as for the holy family there were more dreams and visions and journeys soon to come - and all of it required an outsider's apprehension of faith.


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