No Room At The Katalyma

nativity+angel+1+001-1Poor Joseph and Mary. No room at the ________.

Hmmm . . . how ’bout katalyma? It’s a Greek word, but I’d wager you’ll do a pretty good job of filling in the blank based on more commonly used English words. After all, Joseph and Mary are one of the most famous couples in history. Right away you know this is the Christmas story. Right away, you know it’s a reference from either Matthew or Luke’s Gospel.

(It’s Luke 2:7, for those, like me, that are never 100% sure about the distinctive settings of the two Christmas stories. I usually sneak a scriptural peek to make sure, for example, that the shepherds only appear in Luke and the Magi are Matthew’s special guests.)

How would you express katalyma in today’s English? There was no room at the . . . Motel 6? What about The Four Seasons? Why not the BB&B (the Bethlehem Bed & Breakfast)? Couldn’t the word translate to “the family room with a convertible sofa?”

A likely answer could be: “Poor Joseph and Mary. No room at the . . . inn.”

I’d certainly give that answer, but it’s probably better to translate katalyma as “the lodge.” However, ye olde King James Version (KJV) from the 17th Century and the 20th Century’s New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) read “the inn.” Who wants to argue with the King of England, anyway? Continue reading →

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Advent 2013: The Usual Suspects

oil_lampA few thoughts after posting 2013’s fourth and final Advent reflection . . .

This year, my reading of the familiar—oh so familiar—scriptures inspired me to imagine a few moments in the lives of Advent’s “usual suspects.” As always, I didn’t know exactly what I’d write until each essay was finished. But I was confident Isaiah would make an appearance, initially assumed Mary or Joseph (or both) would be ignored, and had no idea a Pharisee would encounter John the Baptizer. Ah well . . . humans plan, the Holy chuckles.

As the digital dust began to settle, these questions nudged me . . .

  • What caused Isaiah to claim the imagery of turning swords into plowshares?
  • What made John the Baptist’s message compelling, but inadequate, especially in the eyes of a “religious authority?”
  • Wouldn’t self-doubt and confidence accompany Mary’s anticipation of birth? And . . . could Mary have heard Hannah’s song/prayer for inspiration?
  • Why did Joseph, key to the nativity stories, vanish from the verses that followed?

Behind all the questions is a core belief: Christmas is a myth. The facts about Jesus’ birth are sparse and pedestrian. He was born. He had parents and siblings. And from birth to death, Jesus lived under Rome’s brutal, corrupt government. Continue reading →

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Husband, Father, Friend, Lover, Dreamer

Matthew 1:18-25  – The 4th Sunday of Advent – for December 22, 2013

“But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…” (Matthew 1:20)

maryandjosephI was there when Jesus was born. I will never forget that.

And I remember all my children in their first moments, for what man doesn’t want to be a father? What man doesn’t want sons to grow and prosper? What man doesn’t want to give daughters away to good men who’ll care for their families?

When younger, so very long ago, I had dreams. Doesn’t everyone? I daydreamed of accumulating wealth, owning land, for my neighbors to call me “Sir” and seek my advice. But I also admit to the nighttime dreams. Don’t all men dream of women? Being pleased, and pleasing. Being wanted. Being desired. And then the woman arrives, when you know in your bones you want to spend the rest of your life with her, and the dreams of trivial lust transform into tender love.

She comes to me now. My angel. Carefully, she places the bowl of thin soup on the nightstand. She lights the lamp and soon four weak flames flicker. I know she seeks to give me her most encouraging thoughts, but I also sense the unavoidable truth reflected in her eyes. We both know I’m closer to the end than the beginning.

Steam swirls and rises from the bowl. The soup is all I can eat now. She lifts the bowl to my lips, positioning it so the crack James made when he dropped the dish years ago won’t pinch my flesh. We couldn’t throw the bowl away. How can you throw anything away that reminds you of your children?

“I had a dream,” I say. Continue reading →

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