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PostChristmas Greetings: In the Picture (David Duggan, USA, 12/25/16 9:53 am)
My Christmas message, wrote as I ventured to "candlelight service" last night:
In the Picture by David G. Duggan ©
One of the more meaningful bits of instruction in reading the Bible came to me a couple of years ago when it was suggested that we try to put ourselves in the place of those in the narratives. What would we have done? What role would we have played? How would we have responded?
I would never suggest that this is the ideal way of approaching Biblical texts. But to me it seems infinitely better than the "what does it mean to me?" approach now common in the seminary and other erudite circles. The "what does it mean to me" school of analysis seems too narcissistic to be helpful to anyone other than the person answering. If Jesus walked on water, what prevents me from trying that too? Nothing, I suspect other than the forces of gravity and flotation.
Shepherds were the first mortals informed of our Savior's birth. I can't say why this was. Shepherds, by virtue of their trade, were removed from society, rough-hewn, dirty and probably smelling of the detritus from their flock. Yet they, and they alone, greeted the Infant in the manger, probably immune to the stench and setting. How could we ever see ourselves in this picture? And why would we?
Perhaps as an exercise in reality role-playing, this Christmas Eve I cooked some lamb chops for my supper. Of course, I didn't have to butcher the lamb or do anything more exotic than put the chops in the pan. But as I ate those tasty chunks off the bone, greasy hands and all, I felt a curious solidarity with the shepherds 2000 years ago who left their flocks by night and ventured to a Bethlehem stable.
Putting yourself in the scenes and situations of the Bible may take imagination. But isn't that what God asks when He tells us that the angels greeted the shepherds with the words that have never been forgotten: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests."
Blessed Feast of the Incarnation to all my fellow WAISers. (I refrain from saying "Merry Christmas." Too much Dickens and not enough Pusey.)
JE comments: Could we call this the Empathy School of Biblical exegesis? How does this differ from the time-honored "Imitatio Christi"? Either way, thank you David for your inspirational greeting. A joyous Christmas to you. See you at the ballpark this summer?