I know of a congregation that, for many years, provided a “living nativity pageant” in its community. The church is in the center of town and has an expansive front lawn. On a certain December Sunday afternoon each year, it would fill that lawn with live sheep and goats and donkeys, costumed shepherds and wise men, a gaggle of angels, an innkeeper, a manger, and, of course, the holy family.
Last year, humanities professor Stanley Fish wrote a piece about selling his books. The books that had nourished his academic soul for half a century were wheeled unceremoniously out of his home. The ostensible reason for this sale was downsizing—Fish was moving from a house to an apartment. But the real reason was that he was approaching the end of his scholarly career, and the exit of his library was a symbol of a phase of his life coming to a close.
It’s an intrinsic part of Matthew’s story of the wise men that even Gentiles come to bow down before the king of the Jews—but these aren’t the sort of next-door Gentiles who came to Judea to help out with the wheat harvest.
In my lectionary column on Luke 2:1-4, I focus on the theme of hope. Whenever I think about hope, I remember the story of Rabbi Hugo Gryn. He was the senior rabbi at the West London Synagogue when he died almost ten years ago.
Luke’s first two chapters are a metaphorical retirement home for elders who are “looking forward to the consolation of Israel.” Then, in a sudden swirl of events, God gathers these aging people into the drama of salvation.
Encountering Evil, a New Edition: Live Options in Theodicy, by Stephen T. Davis. A stellar ensemble of thinkers, including John Hick, David Ray Griffin and John Cobb Jr., address the problem of how good and evil can coexist. Each chapter is followed by critical responses from the other contributors and then a rejoinder by the author.
My daily reading is tethered to the rhythms of the sun. In the evening, there is the slow burn of the substantial book beside the easy chair, which I savor in small portions. Early mornings are marked by a different pattern.
Much of the snickering about boring sermons comes not
because we expect so little but because we have hoped for so much. A hunger persists for a word from the
Lord—without which we are left to our boring selves.