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Repinski: A short-hand Christmas reflection

By Marvin Repinski

Retired Prespiterian Minister

The Christmas story is drama because it contains all the ingredients that create drama. This story persists and has music for the heart and satisfaction for the mind worldwide. And for those who base their life searching for meaning, solace, challenge, and prompting to extend it, it is seen as having a development out of more than earthly creation. It is a story from heaven!

The following personal responses are shaped around the word SAVIOR. Each of the letters of the term brings into focus the reality of the drama. We have a manger, a child, a city (Bethlehem), angels, sounds of joy, shepherds, ordinary Jewish parents, Joseph and Mary, Wise Men, a star in the east, staffs and donkeys, and a political environment that is hostile to this event. It brings into the present, hopes from prophets like Isaiah who faintly knew what they wrote about when the Messiah would appear as a miracle. Of course, not to mention a crowning achievement, Handel’s “Messiah.”

S — Seeking is a characteristic of any alive, questing person unless physical or mental disabilities are part of a human being’s life. This kind of lack is indeed a sadness that prompts our compassion. But to seek life-answers are part of the drama with figures, either three or maybe as many as twelve, traveling a great distance, driven by a word of hope. Our Christmas plays, familiar to many church groups, have the Wise Men, termed Kings or Magi, present in the rehearsals. Tradition varies, but one view is that the Magi’s arrival may have been a couple of years; Jesus no longer in that crib — possibly a small boy. The grand lesson for each of us, is like the artist Ruben Rodriguez of Puerto Rico. We paint, sing, or converse because a special spirit bids us to find a Savior. The painting “Magi with Gifts” is on the cover of the current devotional booklet of “The Upper Room.” The purple garments worn by the men, were their way of honoring royalty, the color of prime importance for the ancient Hebrew people. Don’t forget, Jesus was a Jew.

A — “Away’ in the Manger” is both sentimental and profound. It leads us to a quality of life that puts the halt, the disapproval of ego, and faulted exercises of self-importance. The journalist David Brooks, wrote a book on character, (The Road to Character), which is still available. In every office of the land, every work place and home, we need to tone down egotism and “me only.” The world is large and varied. Possibly, the straw in a simple crib can speak to us. Humility. I am humbled as part of the human race that Jesus was born into, to remind us of excellent possibilities. In reading history that states: “Lynchings were not unusual in Georgia. Lynchings of white people were.” We have come a long way, but standing by the manger, we agree there is yet a long way to go!

V — Vision is that which keeps us personally and in our communities, a place of stability. In the stories of Christmas, for Jesus and his followers, there was more ahead. Not a vapor, but a voice that may lead a person. The Gospel of Matthew (2:19) records the message to Joseph: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel……” We can make an application here. The Christmas story never ends! It has a GO, a GO that grants us goals. The life of Dr. Fredric B. Meyer, as written in this month’s “Mayo Clinic Magazine,” has attached an article that states, “he has a bold vision.” Splendid! The story speaks of the doctor’s grandparents, who emigrated from Lithuania through Ellis Island. About him and his brothers, “the boys would work, and work hard.” For our fulfilling the story of Jesus, the message that is born in the story of Christmas, is that we have a vision that includes a hymn, “Joy to the World, the Lord has come.”

I — Incarnation is a word in the vocabulary of this season. We may not use it, but all the factors of the Christmas story radiate from it. In the birth of Jesus, our common religious language states: “God became man.” For now, in this writing, I leave the Big Answers to the scholars. I studied with some while a student at Yale University, but now in my heart of hearts, I simply, by faith, say “Jesus is my Savior.” How and by what method, the nature of his birth — let us be at rest. Some comfort is received — sufficient — to note scripture; Romans 2:15, for instance, “written on their hearts.” Maybe a leap is necessary. Not trying to be a big-shot, a know-it-all, may help! Hey, the mental capacities do have limits; can you box God in? The Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, wrote, “there is a line separating good and evil that runs through every human heart.” A review of his life is an example of faith — Jesus was with him in the Gulag. He claimed to be a free man even when the political authorities imprisoned him.

O — Organization of our beliefs, prayers, rituals, art, scriptures, and song are preserved in a recognized setting, place, possibly a building. The Christmas story gives birth to many systems, hierarchies, gatherings, kinds of leadership, and congregation laity. We need not affirm that a particular ticket being punched is the way into a community of the Christ child. The fact is, that under many names ascribed to the Creator, to God, there is a grace present that sustains life. We are hopefully not selfish or judgmental to the worldwide number of persons who sincerely live their conscience in fulfilling a life of prayer and devotion to the service of others. There is a “Jesus phenomenon,” that as C.S. Lewis wrote, “we live in the mystery of God’s will and care!” If we look for the emergence of organizational structure, we may note it from the adoration of the shepherds at the stable, to the Christmas music of the Pope’s Choir.

R — Responding to the Christmas story, we embrace a verse from Psalm 41, which encourages a special focus. “Happy are they who consider the poor and the needy! The Lord will deliver them in their time of trouble.” We may join persons like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshua, who wrote after participating in a civil rights march: “I felt my feet were praying.”