It's been a little more difficult for me to get into the Christmas spirit this year than in most past years. Normally it's easy to immerse myself in the holiday; my work and church life would drag me into the season whether I liked it or not. But this year I'm not working in retail, and the Unitarian church I'm attending doesn't emphasize Christmas to the same degree a Christian church does. That's not to say the holiday is passing by unnoticed; at home, we've put up a tree and strung lots of lights outside, and I've been listening to a lot of Christmas music, and I'm preparing to sing for the UUS Christmas Eve service, and I plan to attend a second Christmas Eve service at my other church, and of course I'm doing this everyday. But some days it feels like I'm just going through the motions.
Yesterday was one of those days. I don't know if it was the work I'd chosen or my mood in general, but when the time came to prepare today's post—I do them a day in advance and queue them up to post automatically the following morning—I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I hated what I'd chosen. I poked around looking for a replacement, but nothing was resonating with me, so I decided to put it off for a bit. I went to the library this morning to look through some collections of Christmas poetry, and then I remembered this little exercise in Christmas contrarianism, which pretty well matched the lack of Christmas spirit I was feeling yesterday. As it happens, I've got that Christmas feeling today, but I still don't like what I originally had picked out for today, so I'm going with this anyway.
From Gospel, Part I: Britain
[N.b.: The scene is set at the Acolyte Supper, a gathering of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim ecclesiasts held annually at All Souls College, Oxford. The primary speaker is Mordechai Hersch, a rabbi and a professor of ancient languages at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The other speaker, Father Basilios, is a Greek Orthodox archimandrite and a scholar attached to London University.]
"You see, Paul, like Jesus and John the Baptist, was a Nazirene. No, not someone from Nazareth—that is a willing misunderstanding of the the Greek. Nazairaos is what Paul claims for himself, formed like Phairisaios, the Pharisee party. Acts itself in 24:5 says the Nazirenes are a sect . . ." The rabbi looked in a Bible he had pre-prepared during dinner. "Paul is characterized as a ringleader of the sect known as the Nazarenes. Now, can any of you gathered here think of one ancient movement named after the hometown of the founder? Of course you can't. It's a fact Christians hate to face, but Jesus and Paul are members of a historical Jewish movement."
"An interruption, Rabbi," asked Father Basilios. "If Jesus was not a Nazarene, meaning 'from Nazareth,' where was he from?"
"From Bethlehem. Jesus could never have been accepted to the degree he was if he wasn't one of David's descendants. Remember, tradition says Elizabeth lived in Ein-Kerim, outside of Bethlehem, where your Orthodox brethren, father, and the Roman Catholics both have shrines for the Visitation. That makes Mary's Visitation believable. Does anyone here honestly think Mary, pregnant, took a danger-filled hundred-mile donkey ride from Nazareth to Ein-Kerim, across the deserts of Samaria, a hated province, to see her cousin as Luke would have us believe? Ein-Kerim isn't ten miles from Bethlehem, that's more believable."
Wilton Barnhardt (born 1960)
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