My father-in-law said that when he began ministry six decades ago, pastors were expected to visit the sick, preach and do a little teaching in the congregation. Now it takes me an entire semester just to skim the surface of “must-have competences” in an Ordained Leadership class. And the list is growing.
When my mother visited my church for the first time, a woman greeted her during the passing of the peace. Realizing that she was speaking to the pastor’s mother, the woman asked, “Just how many children do you have?”
“Six,” my mom responded. Then she hastily corrected herself. “Well, five who are living.” As she turned to the next person her eyes filled with tears.
John’s Christmas story contains no scary angels or shaking shepherds, no Magi bearing gifts, no star guiding their way. There’s no Mary or Joseph, no lowing cattle or humble manger. There’s not even a baby Jesus. For John, Christmas begins all the way back at the beginning itself. “In the beginning was the Word,” John declares, intentionally echoing the first syllables of creation.
The Christmas story includes the very sordid tale of an engaged young woman who is apparently cheating on her fiancé. She’s carrying somebody else’s baby. She says that God did it, which adds blasphemy to the infidelity.