The twelve days of Christmas are rushing by us. That means cleaning up the decorations and finishing the leftovers. A new year, a new decade, is upon us. That means it is time for resolutions and new beginnings. In the Church, the next festival is January 6th – The Epiphany of Our Lord. That means we celebrate the way in which God is revealed to us in Christ’s incarnation, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection.
In churches throughout North America and Europe, manger scenes, complete with blonde-haired, blue-eyed versions of baby Jesus, are ready for the celebration of Christmas. Of course, this representation of Jesus is historically inaccurate (and many pastors, including this one, seem to relish pointing out the inaccuracy). If our representations of the Christ child lead us to an exclusive Messiah, one that looks like us to the exclusion of others, then we have a problem… a heresy, really.
It has been a particularly difficult few weeks in our shared life together. By my count, there are currently eight families in our community who are navigating grief and mourning in the midst of a season that is supposed to be all about hope and expectation. After all, the shopping malls have proclaimed this the happiest and most wonderful time of the year with calls to put emotions that are anything but joyful on the backburner until some other, more “appropriate”, time in the future.
I love this story. I love the compassion Jesus shows. I love the abundance of food that is available, including the provision of leftovers. I see our human nature come out when the disciples respond to Jesus' words with anxiety and defeat, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” But amazing things happen when Jesus is present! The crowd of 4,000 is fed with what appears to be only seven loaves and a few small fish.
A lot has happened in the world over the last week. Last Thursday, the schedule said, “Give thanks.” So, with tables piled high with food and football on the TV, we gave thanks for all the stuff we possess, and the loved ones who benefit. Seems we also took note of what we did not have in the process, because “Black Friday” called us to rush into every available retail outlet to push, shove, and harangue to get whatever we lacked to make life full.