Friday, January 2, 2009

The 9th Day of Christmas

Genesis 12:1-9
v. 8 From there [Abram] moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and invoked the name of the LORD.

Someone's impulse on these last days of Christmas was to give us for readings from the Hebrew Scriptures a few "great moments" from the story. This morning it is the call of Abram to leave his home and travel to the land of Canaan.

"So what does Abraham have to do with Christmas?" I wondered, as read this story. The reading was supposed to end at verse seven, but I read on to nine where the paragraph ended. In verse eight I spotted a familiar phrase and the "Christmas lights" went off: "pitched his tent."

In John's poem about the incarnation that begins his Gospel, these are the words literally used to describe the coming of "the Word" among us. "And the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us," most translations say. It is literally, "pitched his tent."

I've always loved knowing that literal reading. It is a much earthier image than "dwelled" or "lived." It seems more akin to Luke's story of Jesus being born in a barn. This is a picture of God among us common folk (I say, even though I do not "pitch a tent" for any reason, and was born in a very clean, if small, hospital--privileges of which I need to remain aware).

Now I love the image even more. It echoes back to Jesus' primordial ancestors in faith, Abraham and Sarah. It ends up they were not only following the direction of God but were being a "type" of God as well. They were showing the world the God who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, who not only leads his people to impossible places, but is willing to go there himself.

So, it turns out, Abraham has everything to do with Christmas because he shows by his faith the God who has faith in us, enough faith to become one of us.

A continuing Merry Christmas!

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