Saturday, December 24, 2016

Born in a Barn

Good Friday, the day our Lord is crucified and we sing the haunting hymn, "Where You There?" "Where you there when they hung him on the tree? Where you there when they laid him in the tomb?" The chorus always sends chills running down my body, "Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble."

This Advent often has felt like that dark holy day. Our world full of so much trial and tribulation. A world filled with overwhelming hatred and evil. The Orlando night club shooting, a contentious election, the killings of innocent people simply due to the color of their skin, and Aleppo just to name a few. 

"So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger."-Luke 2:16 (NRSV)"

As the cries of the dear children of Aleppo have stopped, we awake to the holy cries of baby Jesus who breaks into the silence of the night. This holy one; Emmanuel; God with us who is born in a stinky smelly barn. As a farmer's daughter, granddaughter and niece, I know firsthand that barns don't have a pleasant smell which makes this image so powerful for me. I have literally stepped in cow shit and had it caked to the bottom of my shoes. 

The truth is we all have stepped in the shit of life; figuratively and literally. It took me a long time to get there, but I believe, our shit often shapes who we are. I wouldn't be who I am; Sandy's daughter; beloved, broken and blessed child of God, without being the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness. Our shit reminds us that God too is one of us and steps right into that shit with us. This holy child, our beloved king, born that silent night with the stench and stealth of the manger all around him is the very Word made flesh! 

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people."--John 1:1-4

In the midst of that smelly barn with shit caked on our shoes, the cries of baby Jesus piercing the darkness, the time is right to move from the Good Friday of this year into shouting and singing alleluias as the Word becomes flesh and is born into our broken fractured world. 

"The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

4 comments:

  1. Are you at your Dad's for Christmas? Attending or preaching at your home church? If so, that's cool! I'm still same place, excited for worship this evening (full cover bulletin cover with my grunge Noel design) and Christmas morning. Still feeling optimistic every day... until the sun sets.

    Related to your advent posts that mention "stench" – which was a fact, or at least minimally quite smelly – we still need to remember the barn / stable would have been the warmest place to give birth, to sleep, or simply to stay. Only the rich and privileged had privies/ latrines separate from the living spaces, so most living quarters didn't smell pleasant, and people didn't bathe on anything like a regular basis—most working-class people never. Although I'm totally with your observation about consternation and disapproval from Joseph's relatives – which made him something of an outcast and refugee – the circumstances of Jesus' birth and childhood were fully within expectations for their artisan socio-economic class. That's part of the outrage of God's incarnation in Jesus: Common, ordinary, everyday, mundane.

    When you have a little time, try to read some of the late Ken Bailey's cultural-historical observations with his focus on the importance of scriptural context. He grew up in the 20th century middle east, spoke arabic, and his specialty was the world surrounding the new testament canon.

    Have a wonderful Christmas! I was ready to add "talk to you next year," but 2017 still is a week away. Hugs and hope to you, to me, to the entire world.

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    1. I am at my Dads. Just attended church. We canceled Christmas morning worship due to a huge storm. I know it was the warmest place to give birth, but the fact is that it was still a barn. Hope you had a blessed Christmas. Hugs to you too!

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    2. oh, I know you know! but my point is it was a totally culturally congruent and completely expected holy ordinary that wouldn't have happened any other way.

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