Christmas – What Child Is This?

What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?

I can answer the song’s question, since I have personally clasped the child in my hand.

Mary’s child has a shock of brown hair and, with eyes closed, is clearly sleeping. I like his snug blue coat with the collar protecting his chest. I delight in the hint of tummy above the clean white sheet warming his legs and feet. He’s fair-skinned, sports a pug nose and—like infants often do—his tiny, tiny fists are closed tight while he slumbers.

See . . . I know what child this is.

It’s baby Jesus in ceramic form, hand-painted by my mother, given to my wife and me on our first married (and merry) Christmas together. Thus, I’m confident of how old Jesus is: he turned thirty-four this year. Thus, I’m confident of what he wore—and always wears—to keep cozy in the hay: a cute blue jacket. Thus, though I’m less confident the “angels greet with anthems sweet,” I can prove Mom did make Baby Jesus. Her initials—a slightly uneven FP—were marked on the hollow backside of the baby. Continue reading →

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On Christmas, Mythology, and Loving My Cranky Mormon Friend

At Christmas, I posted this on Facebook,

Well . . . a Merry Christmas to my Facebook “neighborhood.” I’m enough of a still-learning student of my faith to view this day as part of a holy and humbling story. Our Christmas mythology* proclaims a birth that represented a counter-cultural and subversive tale written to challenge the hypocrisy and excess of an empire . . .

A long-time friend, once a college roommate, someone I now disagree with about politics and religion and completely agree with regarding the good San Francisco Giants vs. the evil Los Angeles Dodgers, asked about my use of mythology*. How does it apply to the Christmas story? Within the limits of Facebook personal messaging, I tried to give him a brief explanation.

I wasn’t very persuasive.

I suspect my buddy wasn’t much open to being persuaded.

To use inadequate labels, my friend is conservative compared to me. His politics veer toward the “right” while mine embrace the “left.” We are Christians, but as a United Methodist claiming progressive theological views, my faith influences don’t share much commonality with his Mormon beliefs.

For him, I think, the Christmas story is fact. Real. If Jesus’ birth didn’t happen exactly the way it was described in the Gospels, it was close enough. After all, even sacred scripture, inspired by God, may not include every single thing that happened. And so, for me to call the birth of Jesus a myth is to miss the mark. Wasn’t Christmas, as told by Matthew and Luke, an historical event in a particular place at a particular time for a particular purpose? I suspect my former roommate would confidently add that Jesus’ birth was predicted in Hebrew scriptures, a long-anticipated piece of God’s plan.

My friend is not alone in his beliefs. Continue reading →

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Awake, Dreamers, Awake

I have no idea why Matthew chose the dreamer’s path while Mark, Luke, and John did not . . .

Please write a thousand word essay on one of the following:

  1. McDreamy
  2. I have a dream.
  3. Dream job.
  4. Dreamers

If you’re a fan of television’s Grey’s Anatomy, maybe you’d pick the first and delve into pop culture and the longevity of a medical melodrama. Or perhaps your essay would highlight Martin Luther King Jr.’s transformational 1963 speech in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Then again, you might respond personally, sharing about the ideal career you have now or aspire to claim in the future. Depending on your view of President Obama or Trump, you might instead write about the politically-charged Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

Dreams die young. What a dreamboat. Dream a little dream of me. Dream Team.

Philosopher Joseph Campbell declared, “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.” Back in the 1960s, Bobby Kennedy made this George Bernard Shaw comment famous: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”

We are dreamers, yes? Continue reading →

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