Always Both the Stable and the Inn

Epiphany, January 6, 2019 (Read lectionary texts here.)

images   “Where is the child born king of the Jews?” ask the men from the east.

   What does that question mean to them, and what would it mean to me?

   To them it must mean, ‘Where is the person who is finally going to remove the Romans from the city that surrounds the house we built for God to inhabit, the house he told us to build, so that he might lodge among us?’

   Oh, how it must have felt to be told to build such a house, and how it must have felt to build it!

   “When they saw the place where the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy” — joy because the person born there would restore the world of such a house, the world of being told to build, and building? Or joy because that birth, in that place, turned every house into a place where God could dwell?

   And not just every house, for am I not also the stable in which the person God decided to become is born, and are not you that stable? That’s what the question means to me: where is the person God decided to become?

   Am I not both the stable in which that person might be born and the inn that shuts its doors against the birth of that person, every day?

   “Arise and shine,” Isaiah says, “for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

   Has risen even now, upon us, people who are both the stable and the inn?

   Then how come it’s so dark?

   If the light has come, then why are we still governed by a man who lies? Why do we keep generating greenhouse gasses? Why do we insult our different-colored neighbors? Why are we prepared to strike, like rattlesnakes, whatever treads upon us? Not just prepared, but proud to be prepared?

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   Because the Romans never really leave Jerusalem. They may be replaced from time to time by different Romans, who call themselves by different names, including my name, but the desire to be stronger, richer, smarter never goes away, the hope to write a sleeker sentence, or to sing a sweeter song, not even after God becomes the bastard son of disregarded Mary, for whom no room will ever be reserved.

   The long-awaited something that we live for doesn’t wait until the Romans leave our city, or our world view, or our inclination.

   Imagine Mary’s inclination: one supposes that she could have swallowed certain herbs; she could have made her body inhospitable. The season of Epiphany shows God forth as both that detritus which, appearing in the womb of a young girl, turns her into what she vowed to never be, and also as the power that occasions her consent. The condition she discovers, which she did not make and would not choose, and her acceptance of it — that’s what God is like. 

Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-14, Ephesians 3:1-12

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