Monday, December 19, 2011

Bethlehem Minus Five, and Counting…

I am exhausted today. Monday is usually my day off and today was no exception, but the final items necessary for this family feast called Christmas had to be addressed. Plus the routine tasks that every family demands. My weekly trip to the dump. (For UK readers that is the “skip.” The local recycling center for glass, cardboard, cans and paper.) Then the grocery shopping, and a visit to the vet to pick up some phenobarbitol for Bela, our epileptic, abandoned-adopted cat. How many other local clergy get to pick up a controlled substance every few weeks? I’d rather not know!

There is certainly a seasonal excitement in the air. While in the Bridgehampton Commons I called by the “bird store” to wish Michael Mackay a very happy Christmas. Michael not only is the morning presenter on WPPB, our local public radio station, but also a devout Roman Catholic and a cantor at the Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary in Southampton. We mused for a while that apart from the obvious fact that Mary and Joseph were there, the primary witnesses to the birth of our Lord were animals. Yet let’s be realistic. Even the Victorian carol In the Bleak Mid-winter’s line, “The ox and ass and camel which adore,” was only two-thirds correct. There were no camels in Bethlehem.

I have baked a cake with five dried fruits and mixed spices. It is only seven inches in diameter (unlike my mother’s huge Christmas cakes) but now drenched in a certain holy spirit and wrapped, I will ice it on Christmas Eve and maybe find a traditional decoration or two. A snowman or candy holly sprig. Who knows?

And I have learned a new word today. “Giftables.” Heard in a conference call in a local retail store. Hmm. What does that actually mean? Can it improve the Epiphany scriptures?

And they opened their giftables of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

As if to balance the somewhat western expressions of the birth of Christ, I am reading All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer (Wiley 2003.) It was a gift to my late and dear friend, (U.S. Ambassador) Heyward Isham, and inscribed:

With admiration to another world citizen. Best wishes, Stephen Kinzer.

And it is a brilliant description of how the present stresses, strains and alleged threats in Iran are entirely of America’s making and engineering.

In the beginning was the word…

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