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Archive for December, 2009

The Shepherd

Up in the hills behind the stable were shepherds and their flocks of sheep.  Sheep are very useful animals and rather endearing, but they are not very bright.  They like to run all over the place, baahing with all their might and not looking where they are going.  So sheep get lost. Sheep get lost a LOT. They are also very tasty, and many things (including, so I am told, small girls named Juliette) like to eat them.

The shepherds cared for the sheep.  It was not easy.  What with animals trying to eat the sheep and sheep running around like crazy small girls and getting lost, the shepherds had a hard time.  They even had to stay up all night to make sure that nothing ate the sheep.

So as the sheep snored and dreamed of a world filled with tasty plants and no lions, the shepherds sat alone on the hillside in the dark and cold watching and protecting the sheep. They waited, though it was really no longer necessary, but sometimes we do that.

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Jesus

And Mary gave birth to her firstborn son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger, for there was no room in the inn.

The son did not wait, for the son is and was and had always been and will ever be.   The son did not worry about glory, for the son is glory.

But for now, the son slept.  It is very tiring to be born, even for God.

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Mary

Mary rode the donkey to Bethlehem. When Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem, the town was very crowded. They could find nowhere to sleep but in the innkeeper’s stable with ox and the manger and the silly sheep and their donkey.

Most people would have been upset, but Mary just waited, in glory and full of grace.

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“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come to us and save us, Lord, our God.

And the first shall be last…

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

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Joseph

Joseph the Carpenter had waited. He had waited to marry Mary. Although she was young, Joseph saw that Mary was good and kind and true, and he loved her. So he waited until she was older. They became engaged. And Joseph was very happy.
Then Joseph heard something that made him unhappy. Mary was going to have a baby, but the baby was not Joseph’s. Joseph was very sad. He knew this meant he could not marry Mary. He had waited for so long for no reason. Because he still loved Mary, though, he decided not to tell other people why he would not marry her. He did not want them to hurt her.

That night Joseph had a dream. He dreamt of a beautiful man, a man with hair like the sun, eyes like flames, and skin like snow, a man so amazingly beautiful that Joseph was scared. The man was an angel, a messenger of God.

The angel told Joseph that Mary was good and kind and true, even more than Joseph knew. So good and true was Mary that God Himself had come to her and given her the baby. The baby would grow up and do something wonderful for people. Something that God had long promised would happen. But in the meantime, Mary and the baby—whom, the angel said, should be named Jesus—would need someone to take care of them, and God knew that Joseph was the person to do this.
When Joseph woke up, he listened to what the angel had told him. He married Mary. A few months later, even though Mary was very pregnant, Joseph and Mary left Nazareth and traveled to the town of Bethlehem so that the government would count them as husband and wife.
Joseph was still not sure what was going on and he didn’t see any glory in it. But he knew he loved Mary and he loved God. And he had never really cared much about glory. So he waited.

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“For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6 

O Rex Gentium
et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
From “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

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The donkey was sure he did not have to wait for his days of glory. He was in them. He worked for a carpenter named Joseph in a town called Nazareth. The donkey carried whatever Joseph told him to carry: sacks of cement, baskets of bricks, tall piles of wood. He worked very hard and was VERY busy. He worked and worked for work was all that mattered to the donkey. If he was not working, he was not happy.
The donkey became very mad and sad when Joseph took him away from his work. Joseph was going to a trip with his wife Mary. They would be traveling from Nazareth to a town called Bethlehem. It would take three days. Joseph would walk, but the donkey had to carry Mary.
The donkey did not consider this work. Work was building houses and carrying heavy loads. Mary was certainly not part of a house. She was not even very heavy. “My time is now,” thought the donkey, “and it is being wasted. I should be working, not carrying this nice, but not very heavy, woman. This is not work. How will Joseph know how important I am unless I am working?”
The donkey longed to return back to the glory of his work, but he was stuck carrying Mary. So he carried her and waited.

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O Oriens

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2.

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis
O Rising Sun,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
From “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

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The Lamb

Another animal occasionally ate from the manger. A silly little sheep snuck snacks from the manger when he trotted by the stable on his way the nearby fields. The manger was there. The sheep was hungry. HE didn’t see anything wrong with sneaking food from it. Of course, when the shepherd caught him eating from the manger and whacked him with a crook, the sheep was sorry…sort of. (Just as you are sorry…sort of…when your father catches you doing something you’re not supposed to be doing.)

The sheep was too little and silly to have had any days of glory. He was convinced he would have them though, so he waited—impatiently.

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When he was hungry, the ox ate his food from a manger. It was not lovely this manger, but it was useful. It was made from the stump of a large old olive tree that the innkeeper’s grandfather had cut down to build the first inn. It may seem very disappointing to become a manger, a bin that animals eat from, in a dark and dusty stable after having been a beautiful, living olive tree, with leaves that dance in the wind and shine in the sunlight. But the manger, if it could have thought, would have been philosophical about such things, as olive trees always are in the face of eternity.

The olive tree’s days of glory were past. But the manger waited.

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