Where’s Jesus?  Not in the manger for long.

Where’s Jesus? Not in the manger for long.

Even as adults, nativity scenes – crèches -help us pause each season to make the familiar scene our own, to envision the appearance of a baby who is the Son of God. In Washington DC, we lived near a Franciscan monastery that every Christmas set out an enormous nativity scene. The figures were life sized, a bit chipped from years of service, but still glowing with bright paint. The shepherds gazed. Joseph knelt. Mary bent low. Alarmingly, the baby Jesus was chained to the manger. Baby Jesus was chained because every year, in every place, the baby Jesus is carried off from manger scenes. Out of his mother’s arms or his comfy manger bed, sometimes never to be found again. It happens so often that there is a Wikipedia page for “Stolen Baby Jesus.” This situation is not taken lightly in Franklin, Indiana. Baby Jesus disappeared from the crèche of a Masonic Retirement Home there, this past December 5. Jesus reappeared five days later. Not wanting to take any chances, a security company installed a GPS tracking device in Jesus. If that Jesus goes missing again, they will be able to hunt him down. You and I – who come here to hear the story behind the scenes – know that the real Jesus can’t be kept in the manger by means of chains. He won’t be bound by any power, any attempt to keep him in one place. He won’t cooperate with those who want him to remain harmlessly sleeping. You and I – who know the baby will grow into a man who will turn tables, affront...
Birth Announcements for Jesus

Birth Announcements for Jesus

    Our intergenerational Sunday school class yesterday, spent some time reading versions of “reveal” of Jesus in Matthew http://bible.oremus.org/and in Luke http://bible.oremus.org/. One, course, focuses on Joseph receiving the embryonic news of a divine person to be born into the family and the other, perhaps more familiarly, has Mary as the one to hear that – with her accent – she will bear good news into the world.  We reflected on what God was expecting, with the birth of this child, looking at some Old Testament texts, which early Christians used to describe the identity of Jesus. We recalled some of the many names given to this little baby – more even than the burden of  of English royalty. Then we crafted birth announcements for Jesus. Some were spare, evoking the image of a harried father shooting out a quick email: “Family, Friends – I have good news. Mary was delivered of a baby boy last night. He and Mary are both well. His name is Jesus. We give thanks to God for his safe delivery.” Others saw this whole thing from the larger, theological perspective. A few were from Mary’s perspective.                     Both children and adults were aware 0f the unusual birthing room. A couple got into the party spirit of the event, inviting worship and gifts, and including animals, people and angels.       My favorite modern inclusion: #followthestar Not a bad idea. Why don’t you give it a try and imagine a birth announcement for Jesus? He is – after all – a child born for us all. Post it here....
Hymn Stories: Silent Night

Hymn Stories: Silent Night

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve in 1818, in a tiny village high in the Austrian Alps, Joseph Mohr, the local Catholic priest, wrote some appropriate stanzas for the season.  The church pipe organ had given out and could not be repaired in time for that evening, so the church organist, Franz Gruber, wrote a simple tune, setting the words for a tenor, a bass and two guitars.  That very evening, at the midnight service, “Silent Night” was heard for the first time.  The song soon made its way beyond the town of Oberdorf, but anonymously, without mention of composer or poet.  Until the 1850s, neither Gruber nor Mohr, living in their remote village, knew that their song was rapidly becoming the most beloved piece of Christmas music ever written. [Merry Christmas Songbook...
Good News: God Seeks Us Out

Good News: God Seeks Us Out

Sam Todd has been lost for thirty years. Sam was a classmate of mine at Yale Divinity School. He and his brother were visiting friends in New York City for New Years Eve 1984. As the festivities were winding up, Sam said he was going outside to clear his head in the fresh air. He has never been seen again. The press material that circulated said Sam was the son of Presbyterian missionaries, scholarly, introverted, a jazz lover. That he was committed to service to the poor and oppressed and believed the church was to be a vehicle for creating justice. For me, Sam was a unique colleague and friend. We had taken Presbyterian required Greek and Hebrew and polity together for two years. Three months before his disappearance, we had passed our ordination exams together. Two months before, he was the brotherly voice that said, “I never saw what you saw in him,” when I was summarily dumped by a boyfriend. He is the only person who has ever said to me, “You have natural rhythm” and was giving me a few drum lessons. He was the first person I knew who ran for the pure pleasure running. He was running when he left a New York City loft on the first morning of 1984 and was lost. Some of you, of course, know this story all too well. You have lost loved ones. You know what it is like not to know whether a child, a sibling, even a parent is alive or dead. Where they might be living or have been killed? Have they taken their own...
Highlights From Musikgarten: Session #1

Highlights From Musikgarten: Session #1

This year in September, Faith Presbyterian launched Musikgarten, a music program for toddlers that helps them develop a deep connection to music while being able to express it in a way that is natural to them. We wrapped up the first session of “God’s Children Sing” last month and it really was a blast! I had a great time teaching this past class and look forward to the Musikgarten sessions next year. I’m still amazed at how quickly kids connect with this method of teaching & learning. All children develop at a different pace, and it is very interesting to see how children at this age pick up the Musikgarten routine and run with it, making it their very own.  From what I’ve seen running this program is that the children open up to the class and relax, opening their brain to what is presented to them. They love mimicking people and are little sponges, especially at this age. When we teach them in a way they understand, it is amazing what they show us they can do.   The first session of “God’s Children Sing” was a great experience for all!  Everyone seemed to have a great deal of fun in the class and learned many things; I certainly did. The last few classes had children getting extra excited during the musical patterns presented every week, repeating & teaching each other patterns on the xylophone, requesting songs, and children, who were at times shy, fully engaging in the class. We even successfully pulled off a few difficult exercises, with some practice, as a group. It’s times like this...