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Christmas Eve 2012.  7:30 pm.  “Just Like Us”

Rev Elisabeth R. Jones

Ce Noel, ma maison ressemble à la petite ville de Bethlehem!
Pour la première fois depuis le mariage de ma fille il y a 4 ans,
tous « les enfants de la maison et de la descendance de Jones »
sont venus dans ma maison, avec époux/épouses et bébés, valises, poussettes, chaises hautes etc.,
Et croyez moi, il y a peu de place dans l’auberge !

With all my children and their respective partners and offspring,
our house feels like Bethlehem… barely any room at the inn!

As we went to gather the clan at various airports
and bus-stops over the past few days,
I’ve  come to see this well- known story from a slightly new perspective.

It’s a travel story, which while two thousand years old
could easily be repeated  in our own day. 
Let me ask for a few children and perhaps a couple of adults to help me out.
I need a Mary and a Joseph.
Here is your luggage.
Over here is the Nazareth regional airport.
Here’s the line-up for security check.
Here’s the first of many officious officials that Mary and Joseph will encounter….
Can you please read your lines:

1) No liquids!  Remove your shoes!
Don’t forget to pay your airport improvement fee departure tax!
1) Pas de liquides! Enlève tes chaussures !

Can you imagine Mary, heavily pregnant,
having to take her shoes off her swollen feet?
Joseph, dark and bearded,
is pulled out of the line for a “random” search…..

No fun is it? This travelling.
21st or 1st century travel, even for fun is no walk in the park.
Now, I still need your help to imagine the end of their journey….
Here is the Bethlehem airfield. 
Not an airport really,  not even as  big as Plattsburgh
… just a  single runway, and a war-time hut to wait in
while your baggage is unloaded, piece by piece
by two gum chewing teenagers
who make the repetitive boredom less so by seeing how hard they can throw
your baggage onto the waiting pickup.

Can you read this script?
2. Move along there!  Don’t block the exit!  No parking in the pick up zone!
2. Avance là ! Ne bloque pas la sortie! Aucun stationnement dans la zone de cueillette !

And to cap it all:
“Oversized baggage pickup is unavailable at this time.” Please come back tomorrow.
Veuillez revenir demain.

What?! Mary’s bag, with all the things she needs for the baby!!

All the passengers disperse into the winter night.
(thank you, travellers, you can go back to your seats)
But the one super 8 motel is full before Joseph and Mary get there.
They join the others huddled on the bus-shelter bench,
or under the terasse awning that shelters the summer patio
of the diner on the corner.

The point I’m trying to make here is that
Mary and Joseph,
are not some romanticized “poor” couple
from long ago and far away,
unreal cut-out figurines in baby-blue and carpenter brown,
but they are just like us.

Two people trying to make their way in a real world
Deux personnes qui essaient de se frayer un chemin
dans le vrai monde
the sort of world that has governments, and governors,
taxes and censuses, and food bills, and travel nightmares
rendus encore pire par la bureaucratie, les niveaux d’alerte,
par des tempêtes hivernales
the sorts of human bureaucratic and natural cauchemars
that throw togetherthe rich and poor,
the holiday maker with the business traveller,
with the refugee, with the grieving daughter flying
to be with the last of her parents before they die….

Mary and Joseph probably wished as much as we do
for a human touch, a caring smile, an awareness of their unique humanity,
an acknowledgement of just how difficult it is to be ‘ordinary’
in a world that seems to spin between polar extremes of
wonder and horror, of love and hate, of peace and war.

Thing is, when I start to imagine Mary and Joseph
among the travellers I’ve seen these past few days,
when I start to imagine Joseph carrying for two,
Mary’s  drop-dead exhaustion,
I start to be affected by this long-ago, faraway story
in a whole new way.

I start to imagine,
that if they are just like us,
then what happened to them can also happen to us….
Je commence à imaginer
que s’ils sont comme nous
alors ce qui leur est arrivé peut aussi nous arriver….
Dieu peut naître également dans nos vies ordinaires !
God can be born in our ordinary lives too!

A birth, one that changes your world,
and all births do,
that can change the world one human heartbeat at a time!
A birth that brings out the protective care for another that you never knew you had,
a birth of love that shares good news and hopefulness
with strangers thrown together in times of hardship,
sharing a bagel and coffee with the guy who missed his flight,
is not so different from the innkeeper who bundles new straw in the cow barn,
the best he can do to stave off the cold for a labouring mother.
Ce n’est aussi pas si différent que ces moments
quand l’esprit  humain d’amour
et d’espoir et de générosité
est né dans les moments de terreur;
when neighbours shared heat in an ice storm,
when school gyms are filled with cots, and hot soup
in the aftermath of Sandy,
the teacher who told her children they were loved,
while bullets ricocheted outside the door.
When peace gardens are built by students determined to redeem the world, because they can.

Qui sommes nous pour dire qu’encore et toujours, cette histoire de la nativité de Bethlehem,
cet Enfant-Amour de Dieu
n’est pas né dans un monde tel que le nôtre,
à travers des gens comme Joseph et Marie,
Who are we to say that time and again,
this Nativity Story of Bethlehem,
this Love Child of God
is not born into a world just like ours,
through people just like Joseph and Mary,
just like us?

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