Posted tagged ‘Mary’

Manger Implications

November 26, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  November 26, 2015

                                     

Last night a group of us were decorating the church sanctuary for Christmas. Wreaths, Christmas tree, and nativity sets. Our church has about four different nativity sets which get positioned in different spots around the room.

As we decorated and started to place the manger scenes we discovered that a couple of the sets were incomplete. In one box Mary came up missing! She had fled the scene! In another there were twin baby Jesus’s! A third set had a Mary and Joseph who were dwarfed by Goliath-sized magi.

I was game to place the different manger scenes as they appeared, but was outvoted by the rest of the decorators. What a perfect time to make people think about the implications of the birth scene of Jesus by putting out the manger scenes as we had them.

A single parent manger scene with only Joseph! What would that have looked like for Jesus? For one thing he wouldn’t have had siblings, but, more than that, Mary seems to have been the nurturer in scripture. By the time Jesus was gathering his disciples Joseph has been gone for a long time. It can easily be said that Mary was second in importance to the Christ-child as part of the nativity scene cast.

Twin Jesus’s! That would have blown everyone’s minds! I can’t even comprehend the gospel story with twin messiahs.

The more I think about it the more I’m glad I was outvoted. There seems to be enough “messing with people’s theology” going on these days!

In our own minds we’re prone to re-create the story. The gospel has had people deleting from it for years. Just as Catholics perhaps over-emphasize the role of Mary, many Protestants aren’t sure what to do with her. She gives birth and then in our theology comes up missing after that.

Twin Jesus’s! Many of us live our Christianity based on that: one Jesus for Calvary and the other Jesus to convince us that life will be comfortable and worry-free if we simply believe in him.

Giant magi and “little people Mary and Joseph!” An appropriate and relevant picture to describe how prominent our faith journey is compared to other elements of our life.

Incomplete manger scenes are disturbing for many reasons!

Recognizing Angels

December 8, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 December 8, 2014

                                               

Angels are well-liked. Many people see them as cuddly little bald-headed boys who fly around and sprinkle glitter. They’ve been portrayed by attractive Hollywood actresses who talk in sweet tones and sing with…okay, I’ll say it…angelic voices.

But in everyday life how do we know it’s an angel that we’re seeing or talking to. In the Bible there were very clear angelic conversations between the angel Gabriel and Zechariah (Luke 1) and also with Mary. Zechariah becomes speechless as a result of the encounter, and his faithless questions. After Jesus’ resurrection there is an angelic encounter at the tomb.

The other side of the situation, however, is Hebrews 13:2- “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Angels could be bald-headed or have a full head of red hair. They could be thought to be Pakistani or Irish, young or old, dressed well or shabby in appearance. The disturbing thing about the verse in Hebrews is that we may have shown hospitality to dozens of angels and not be aware of it until some time in the future or next life…or we may have refused angels and not thought a thing about it.

Perhaps the point of that verse in Hebrews 13 is to say that our attitude towards people, and behavior towards people, should have a consistency to it. The recent situations across our nation have shown that we have certain biases towards those who are not like us. Years ago a church growth consultant advocated for churches to be homogenous. In other words attract more people that are cookie-cutter images of the people who are already there. Diversity was discouraged. I wonder how many angelic visitations were met with cold shoulders and closed lips?

Angelic appointments are not like my annual physical with my doctor that I can schedule a couple of months ahead of time. When I make that appointment it usually includes a couple of “No, that time doesn’t work” answers before finding a suitable time that works. Angelic visits are according to God’s planning, and, hard as it is for me to believe, God doesn’t compare calendars with me before sending one of his messengers.

So how do we recognize angels? With great difficulty! Oddly enough, that may be the point, for God does not want us to treat anyone less than we would treat Gabriel. What a concept to live life by! To see each person we meet and relate to as quite possibly being one of the angelic beings!

Humbled and Blessed

December 8, 2014

 

“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28)

It seems that so many of the people that we encounter in the Bible that are blessed by God in some significant way are men and women of humble circumstances. Think about it! Peter was crucified upside down because he didn’t consider himself worthy enough to be nailed to the cross the same way Jesus had been crucified.

Ruth was spotted by Boaz as she was gleaning in the field. Gleaning was a way that people who was poor- people trying to survive- could gather grain to feed themselves.

Paul was supported by the generosity of the first churches. He was the one who wrote Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing our of self ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider other better than yourselves.” And then in describing Jesus he wrote, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) Paul had been humbled by the appearance of Jesus on the road to Damascus, an event that blinded him for a while.

Humbleness is not a quality that gets much print these days. Recently a college football player was thinking too much about his celebration antics for scoring a touchdown and dropped the football prematurely before he crossed the goal line. The defending team picked up the football that was bouncing around on the one yard line and returned it 99 yards for a jaw-dropping score. If the player who had been intent on being in the spotlight had put his selfish ambition to the side and simply crossed the goal line his team would have been ahead 14-0. Instead it was suddenly 7-7 and the momentum changed for the rest of the game.

Mary was called by the angel Gabriel to be the mother of the Christ-child. Her spirit of humility showed in her response to the angel in Luke 1:38.

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

Two millennia later we celebrate the humble woman who was blessed by God. In terms of the blessings of God, he often goes against the grain and chooses the insignificant, the poor, the stutterer, the elderly, the common folk to carry out his greatest plans and purposes.

Pregnancy Stories

December 5, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 December 5, 2013

 

                                     

 

     When pregnant women converge it is best for men to keep some distance! That isn’t because the women become violent, but rather that they share a bond together that, try as we may, men don’t quite understand. Pregnant women speak a different language. They talk about baby names, breastfeeding, the doctor who will deliver the baby, “Babies-R-Us”, labor pains, and swelled ankles. 

     Most men want to talk about some of those things, but only with the woman that is going to give birth to their child. Men rarely mix conversation of deer hunting season, the BCS football national championship game, and the best tires to buy for their vehicles with talk about 2 A.M. feedings and what they will do to pass the time in the birthing room. 

     When I read the birth narrative story in Luke I notice the moment where Mary greets expectant Elizabeth. She has been told by the angel that Elizabeth is pregnant and is “in her sixth month.” (Luke 1:36b)

     The story proceeds this way:

   “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:39-43)

     There was a bond between two pregnant women, and more than that, a revelation within both of them as to what was going on- an old woman expecting her first child, and a virgin impossibly pregnant. They begin speaking a new kind of language that only the two of them could understand. Something of the Lord was happening in each of their lives. 

     It was an improbable meeting. Elizabeth great with child, and Mary, were assuming, just beginning her pregnancy. For three months they shared pregnancy stories, but more than that, shared stories about expectancy…what was God going to do through their two sons!