Christmas Story

John 1:1-5

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Luke 1:26-30, 2:1-5

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 38Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

Luke 1:46-56

46 And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

56 And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.

Luke 2:5-7

5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:8-12

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 

Luke 2:16-20

16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Luke 2:13-14

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

John 3:16-17

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Ch 5: Looking

Hopefully she slept, I peeked in at her and it seems like she was asleep…but the light startled me, so I only caught a glimpse.

I hope she was asleep.

Otherwise why would her eyes be closed?

I did see that she had brownish/blackish hair, it looked a lot neater than mine. Could I even brush myself if I wanted to? It might feel good to use a brush.

If her hair is dark then her eyes would be….I realize I’m growling

The candle had burned down to the nub…I should have replaced it, but it was too scary.

I couldn’t go into her room.

Focus, focus.

Name, I need a name, maybe if I have a name I can start to define thing.

Maybe then I can look at her again.

Maybe then I won’t be afraid to change the candle.

Ch 4: Time

I begin to get oriented. The big whatchamacallit left, and as he passed a candle was lit.

Did I black out before that? I remember all the feelings I had, but I don’t know how much time passed, or if I really, actually saw anything.

The candle is flickering…..

Can something that shape even light a candle? I don’t even know if there are hands or claws or…

my mind went blank at “claws,” probably not a good direction for my thoughts to go. Maybe that’s how I blacked out to begin with.

The flickering candle is comforting…it marks the passage of time better than the dark does–it makes me think of morning….maybe I should go to bed. Its hard to tell without any windows.

I stand up–I’m surprised that I’m not shaky, maybe its because I’ve spent all my energy on the..confrontation. Ok, good to know for the future, when I go through an emotional rollercoaster, at some point, my body calms itself down.

I peer out to the hall, of course no one is there. There would be no sneaking in this place.

Determined, I pick up the candle and walk. Its only a hallway, I tell myself. Its not as if its a dungeon or the forest. My eyes follow a gold line trim on the wall, the gleam of it comforts me. Dancing in the light.

The first room I open, thankfully has a bed, I lie down. I carefully place the candle on the winged table nearby

I watch the shadows dance on the ceiling until I fall asleep.

Short Story: Library Monsters….by Katy Stenta

“Why is there no down?” the boy-boy asked the librarian, looking for the elevator button

“There is no downstairs” the librarian chuckled, “Well there is one, but you can’t get there from here?

“Why? What’s down there” child asked 2 more of his 300 questions a day (249 already, his mom didn’t mean to be counting, but she couldn’t help it once she heard that children tend to ask 300 questions a day)

The librarian raised her eyebrows “I think there are library monsters”

“Are they nice” boy-boy recklessly asked, (250 questions)

“I can’t imagine mean monsters living in the library”

The boy-boy went upstairs with his two little brothers, until the library closed.

As the library closed, the boy-boy (and his mom and brothers) went out to the steps to wait for his dad to join them)

While they waited, a natural game of chase arose up and down the steps and looping around the ramp…(and at times climbing upon the railing, although mom kept trying to say no)

Then a mumuring began…a kind of quiet celebatory roar

Naturally the boy-boy had to know “What’s that noise?” he piped out, asking the noise, then the stranger and then finally his mom (253 his mom thought). 

“It could be the monsters” mom said, just as the noise quieted

The boy-boy imagined Library Monsters–Piling books up high….Sliding up and down the railings of the library steps, snuggling the animals, messing with the toys. He imagined the monsters had a million eyes, and would spend long hours looking at books–and that during the day they would listen in the pipes to the adults reading them out loud. 

Just then the noise started again, and the boy-boy whispered “See you soon” as his dad came down the steps and the family got in the car, and he didn’t ask another question……until they arrived at home!

Talia: Chapter 2

The next morning I wake up,  groggy and with a slight headache. Time to get up Talia Jolie I say, muttering at myself to get up. I find that calling myself by my full name helps me to get up in the morning. Its almost like someone needs me, even though this is seldom the case, so it helps. I roll out of bed and start to do the chores. I start by building up the fire, mother never says anything, but she has been rubbing her hands more and more, and I think her hands are starting to get to her.

I never thought about how old mother was until this year. She had me late, a miracle baby she calls me. She could easily be my grandmother. But she has always been so busy and spritely you would have never known it. She still is very active for her age, but sometimes I see her look off into the distant fields, and I feel like she wishes to run and play but has not the energy to do so. At times like this I feel helpless.

And sure enough, my mother was there, awake looking at the fields. She started away guiltily, I don’t think she wanted me to see her, which means she’s probably been stealing more looks than I think. Sighing I weigh the options in my head, but not feeling particularly brave (or awake) at the moment….I decide to go with the safer question.

“Morning….mother, can you tell me a story?”

Instantly my mother’s face is transformed, animated and alive, she sweeps into the rocking chair that our neighbor made for her a few years ago and grabs her quilt in a queen-like fashion.

“Of course dear, which one do you want today?”

“How about my story?” I say, a twinkle in my eye.

“Ah, such a fairy tale! There I was, wishing and wishing for a child. I blew the dandelions down everyday for summer, and I threw as many crystals into the lake I could find.”

“Did it work?” I asked

My mother looks at me and laughs, “I don’t know…I know that in that summer I did more hoping and dreaming than I ever had before. I knew that I wanted something in my life, something….” Here my mother pauses, I lean in, I have never heard this part of the tale before. My mother shakes herself and continues.

“Well, I wanted you, didn’t I? So magic or not, it worked, as I was saying, a whole summer, an entire summer of dandelions and rocks, and on the very last day of summer, I knew. You whispered in my ear as I slept, and I woke up knowing you had started. And that was my miracle.”

I smiled

            “And then, of course, 10 moons later you were born, red and perfect, and I’ve been thankful ever since.” My mother ends her story in the usual way.

            I look up, there was a soft tapping at the window, somehow it had started to rain in the brief tale my mother told. I looked out the window, and then realized—by the prickles on the back of her neck that her mother was looking too…over her shoulder. Talia looked back at her mother who met her eyes, something blazing in them.

            “You feel it too, don’t you?” my mother made the query as though it was a fact. “Admit it, your being pulled.”

            As soon as she said it, I realized it was true. I had caught my mother looking out the window, because I had been doing the same thing. The restlessness that was in my very soul was the reason. I hadn’t thought of it as restlessness, I hadn’t thought of it as a call to go because…”but I don’t want to leave you”

            My mother chuckled, a rich, full sound with no sign of irony in it. “I know Tally, I know…but I feel it, I feel your need to go and I know its not me who needs the adventure, so I think I must be picking it up from you.” My mother fell silent to these words, hinting at a magic she had never previously had…

            I didn’t know what to say, so I remained silent, a rarity to for me.

            My mother smiled, a slow, sad and beautiful one.

            “Its time Talia, its time to for you to go. I think you need to find, something, I’m not sure what it is, but I know it in my soul. You need to go.”

            “But, why, how? I don’t understand…..”

            “I think you’ve been feeling it for a long time, I think that you need to figure out why you can’t sleep, I think you are attuned to something…and, and I think you didn’t recognize it because it never occurred to you that you could leave. No one ever leaves here, and you love me” Here I felt a light touch on my shoulder “but its time.”

            Thinking furiously, I started to make myself a cup of tea, knowing my mother was right, but uncertain about how to proceed. And my mother walked outside, and stood a bit in the rain, looking comfortable and satisfied as I continue to busy myself in the kitchen. 

A True Story

A teacher and a nurse are left with a faltering church. The teacher is practical and into appearances and the nurse is into rule following and order. Both women help to run the church for 40+ years. In all probability should either of them not have been there the church probably no longer exists.

Neither woman likes the other (in fact there are rumors of the women’s mother’s hating each other), but they are there the two pillars of the church. In walks a policeman. The policeman is new, and yet he gets to irritate both the teacher and the nurse. The teacher hates how he wants to lay out everything in rules, the nurse hates that the policeman likes to always be right.

A new pastor walks in and insists that God wants all these people to be a church.

The people all wrangle, manipulate, yell and complain.

But the pastor says that God put everyone in this church for a reason.

Much more goggosomen,grumblings murmuring and mutterings occured (See John 6:35-51 about goggosomen)

Then the pastor insisted that the church continue to be a church

Then an argument broke out, it might have been between the policeman and the teacher, or the teacher and the nurse or any combination of said participants.

Words were said, aggression became passive for some and active for others.

And in the end the pastor looked at her scripture, threw out her sermon and preached on the Golden Rule in light of the fight that had taken place not ten min before service.

Jesus commands us to love God, anyone who has loved a person with depression, addiction or bad days knows that love is hard work. Happily Ever After is just the beginning of the commitment.

That is what we are doing here as a church–we are vowing to be together forever, to love no matter what and to work on our relationships.

Who here doesn’t have relationships they need to work on? Church is a place to work on those through the empowering and life-changing love that is personified in Jesus Christ.

And every Sunday, every time we gather, whenever two or three gather in Christ’s name–the tone should be that of a wedding, for we are renewing and living out our vow…

The story doesn’t end happily ever after–because the church is too busy, too busy renewing their vows, working together and attempting to love one another no matter what.

Because whether or not the church needs us, or whether or not the God needs us…

The church wants us, and God wants us….God wants to love us, God wants us to reflect that love unto the world so that our entire being is changing…..

And that is something the pastor will avow to till the end of her time!

Image

(funny thing, all these professions are public sector jobs, note the above comic portrays a teacher, a policeman and a nurse)

Deuteronomy 6:4-94Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

 

Mark 12:28-34

28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question

Beauty and the Beast

I may or may not own a billion different versions of Beauty and the Beast. (Plus some figures, snowglobes and plastic McDonald’s toys)

Why? Because its my favorite fairy tale. Why? Because its the first/best fairytale and it is so TOTALLY theological!!!! (did I put too many exclamation points there?)Image

Things to know about Beauty and the Beast which I have disseminated from years of study (no seriously I have been convertly studying fairy tales for 8 years. First as an “English” major at Oberlin, then as a theological student at Princeton)

1. It is the FIRST fairy tale we know of

2. It evolved from what is the last myth we know of: Cupid and Psyche (in “The Golden Ass”) written a couple of hundred of years after myths were in styleImage

3. Before Christianity, the “happily ever after concept” did not seem to exist in stories….In fact the theological differences between Cupid & Psyche and Beauty and the Beast are amazing but I will write my thesis on all that later (hopefully). Today we’ll stick to B&B

Next thoughts

If you haven’t read Beauty and the Beast, I invite you to do so on literally the best Fairy Tale Resource today (I mean literally, I’ve done the research) at Sur La Lune http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/beautybeast/index.html

1. The prince/beast is a fallen man somehow either through his own or his parents brokenness. Usually his outer ugliness mirrors his inner ugliness (The Fall from Grace Anyone)

2. His Salvation/Transformation into his former/real/best self is through Love

3. Beauty Loves Beast even in his ugliness

4. Beast regains his life/and is transformed through the pure love of Beauty

(PS how cool is it that the Christ figure is a girl in this one)

1. Humanity falls and is ugly

2. Humanity’s hope lies in God’s grace through God’s Love

3. God loves us, period.

4. We are born again/from above and transformed

And we all will live happily ever after!

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.–1 Col 19-20

All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.–Ps. 86:9

(PS concerns and questions about the every knee shall bow language will be addressed in another post, so don’t worry)

Now that I’ve blown your mind (or at least reminded you to hear “Be Our Guest” again) I invite you to read any/all of the following, and if you know another Beauty and the Beast that you like let me know in case I haven’t read it.

(This may, perhaps, possibly in the Disney version make Gaston into the devil…hehehehehehehe)

Good Versions of Beauty and the Beast

1st John 4:7-18 (I’ve copied it below)

C.S. Lewis Voyage of the Dawn Treader Eustace’s Story

Beauty by Robin McKinley & Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (yes she wrote 2 good ones)

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

Cupid and Psyche in the Golden Ass (Hi, Chloe! I love you!)

La Belle et La Bete directed by Cocteau (black and white one of the 1st films, look at the effects, I mean this was before computers)

Beauty and the Beast the 80s TV show

10th Kingdom (in a lighter vein)

Donkeyskin/Tattercoat/Alleirauh are very similar (though different)

Deerskin by Robin McKinley (I know, but I couldn’t help myself)

Fables Comic Series (note: main characters)

and of course the Disney movie/play

1st John 4:7-18; Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

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