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.