Post-Christmas: A Season for Parents

Advent and Christmas: we’ve celebrated Mary’s demand for a just world, Joseph’s support for the pregnant woman he’s not married to, their escape from oppression, the refusal of sanctuary, the birth of Jesus.

Now Jesus is born and living in obscurity with his family. It will be 30 years of his doing we know not what. As the average life-expectancy was 35-45 years, he spent most of his life doing “we-know-not-what.” 

In the “Infancy Gospel of Thomas” (as opposed to “The Gospel of Thomas,” different guy), Jesus on occasion killed children who made him angry, just by commanding it. When the bereaved parents complained to Joseph, Jesus struck them blind. Uber-bullying. 

“And, seeing what Jesus did, Joseph rose and took hold of his ear and pulled it hard.” (Th 2:5) 

From this account we may be sure that Joseph and Mary worked long and hard to produce the adult who proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount.  Perhaps we can celebrate this post-Christmas season as “The Season of Parenting.” No doubt the influence of his parents influenced his teachings. Were his parents the ones who took the vengefulness part of God and transform it in the open heart of their child? Unlike God God, Jesus had a mother; was that the secret? How did parents who went through all they went through, deal with a child who acts out? Never mind a supernatural, death wielding one? One thing is for sure: they were two tough, loving, patient, people.

“The Infancy Gospel of Thomas” was not included in the canon, and was decried as heresy. If we want to remember the true humanity of our fore-bearers, I think it is worthy of any parent’s canon. To give them hope, and to encourage them; for some to know that they are not alone in the brattiness of their offspring. The parents of children who are bullied can know that Joseph hears their pain.  

21st century American parenting would look terribly strange to Joseph and Mary, but one truth remains: nurturing a child ain’t easy. Happy Parenting Season!

 

 

All Things Counter: A Subdued Christmas

 

This is the time of year that I usually enjoy looking back over the Christmas Wars: reporters speculating on what race Santa really is, fundamentalist atheists demonstrating, once again, that while the Nativity scene may not be historically accurate, Grinches are real. (See “Delicious Christmas Controversies”) The War was very subdued this year. Much spittle flew over the President and First Lady wishing the nation Happy Holidays, but that was fleeting. The only real bright spot was the wave of Pastafarians winning the right to have their license photos taken with colanders on their heads.

However, Pastafarians are gaining acceptance for wearing colanders while Muslims are attacked for wearing hijab. I’m not finding the humor in that. Screaming at refugee Syrians, picketing children from Central America, some Americans are celebrating The Slaughter of the Innocents. One woman screamed at a bus of children on its way to a refugee camp, “Jesus would obey the law!” I consider this proof positive that there are two opposing versions of the New Testament, the one our church uses and the one that woman uses.

Our country has an ugly history of immigrant-hatred. We just can’t seem to shake it: Chinese, Italians, Irish, Japanese, Puerto Rican, Syrians, and always front-and-center, African Americans. (I’m skipping over the irony that African Americans were kidnapped and brought here by white folks.) This Christmas season the never-ending trend is gaining political traction.

This year the war on Christmas seems real.

Usually the bracing cold of this time of year helps me snap out of this discouragement. Now I’m weighed by damp warmth. Christmas Day, Kate Stevens told us to remember the resources we use to fill the hole of discouragement. The resources do not solve problems, but give us the strength to face them. I’ll pass along my joy to you, a gift from Gerard Manley Hopkins:

“Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.”