As some of you know, previous to seminary I spent my time studying intertestamental retellings of Biblical stories.
Well—an interesting one arrived in the church mail-box a few days ago—sealed with an Ox faced stamp from a man named Theophilus—yes the same man to whom the Gospel of Luke was dedicated to—the words were scrawling in Greek letters so illegible that could only be from a physician—a physician such as St. Luke.
What I bring before you was titled Luke, chapter 1, verses 81-101, twenty verses not found in any canonical scripture, but which would fit between the 80th verse of Luke chapter 1 and the first verse of Luke chapter 2. In other words, if it had made it into canonical scripture it would have been read right before the lesson I just read here tonight.
If the translation sounds more Halversonian than Lukean—do not judge the author harshly, but instead judge me, the translator.
I bring before you a section of scripture titled “The Angel of the Lord and a Publicist walked into a Diner.”
Let us pray:
The Holy Gospel according to Luke, the first chapter. Glory to you, O Lord.
At that time an Angel of the Lord looked for a publicist in the phone book, and called one Chase Thompson, esquire.
And low, they met for coffee and pie at a diner, Mr. Thompson arrived late—and verily his outfit was pretentious.
“What are you selling?” he asked the angel.
And the angel said, “The Savior of the World—the One who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (This was said to fulfill the words of the Prophet Isaiah).
Mr. Thompson stifled a chuckle, thinking to himself, “is this guy for real?”
And truly, he was for real.
But aloud the Publicist said, “Sounds like an easy enough roll out—a little event at a library or something—balloons and punch—maybe an ad in the Observer or the Courier News.”
With that the angel produced from under the table a brief case filled with 100-dollar bills.
Mr. Thompson’s eyes became very large and lit up with much greed.
“Mr. Thompson,” said the angel, “what would the greatest roll-out in the history of the world look like? How would humanity expect the Savior to appear?”
“Well—first off, make sure he’s born to a nice family—no scandal—no skeletons in the closet, nothing that his enemies could use to hurt him.”
The Publicist paused.
“He’ll be the child of an emperor right? Or a king, prime minister or president. Born somewhere with easy access to the outside world—A capital—DC, maybe London, Jerusalem, Paris… you know, somewhere where the paparazzi and the media can find him— I can get him a Twitter account and a hash tag even before he’s born!”
The angel summarized—writing something in his little mole-skin notebook. “So he should be in a capital city born of an Emperor?”
“Yes. And you’ll need someone to discover him… don’t get me wrong—I will charge a finder’s fee—but someone prominent to discover him—Ashton Kutcher maybe… or Dianne Sawyer—the old people like Dianne Sawyer…
wait, you’re an angel—you could bring Cronkite back…you could have George Washington, Honest Abe, and Walter Cronkite all at once discovering this kid!”
Then, like he was swatting at flies, he pushed those thoughts away, saying, “I’m not a details person—the point is, bring in someone respectable and above reproach—some Pharisees, a Bishop, and a couple of good lawyers—everyone will be eating out of your hands.”
“Your saying he needs to be discovered by reputable people.”
“Yeah,” the Publicist affirmed.
And then their bread pudding came, and Mr. Thompson leaned in, whispering,
“The big thing is security, but don’t worry—I know a guy.
we can keep your Savior under glass—untouched—invincible.”
“You are suggesting a messiah should be under lock and key?”
“Yeah, you know, keep him away from the riff-raff and make sure no unstable or sick person messes up the good thing he’ll have going.”
“In Summary, Mr. Thompson, your recommendations for rolling out the Savior of the World—publicizing the birth of the Messiah, are:
1. to make sure he’s born in the center of an empire to scandal free and influential parents,
2. that the first people to ‘discover’ him have reputations beyond reproach, and, finally,
3. that he’s kept from any possible danger—including interacting with those who need him, so that he can have rest at the expense of those who are weary and loaded down with heavy burdens?”
“Yeah,” Mr. Thompson affirmed, eyeing again the suitcase filled with money.
“We’ll take your recommendations under consideration,” responded the Angel of the Lord.
And with that he, and the suitcase filled with money, were gone—Mr. Thompson—after much argument and haranguing—was forced to pay for his meal
He did not tip well.
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Reading these lost words from Luke—knowing the tradition from Matthew that Joseph was going to divorce Mary quietly to avoid a scandal
Reading these lost words from Luke—knowing Bethlehem was at best a backwater of the Roman Empire and that a cattle trough is hardly the Ritz.
Knowing a carpenter and young lady were not influential.
Knowing that the shepherds who proclaimed Jesus as savior to Mary, Joseph, and whoever else were listening,
these shepherds were considered by some to be in the same category as tax collectors and prostitutes—the type of people whose testimony was considered inadmissible in the court of law and whose presence was unwelcome in respectable towns.
Knowing Jesus Christ—the Savior whose birth we celebrate tonight—was born as a vulnerable baby and lived his life for those in need and gave his life our life to save.
Knowing all of this—trusting it to be true, let us sing of mangers and hay
open starry nights and lowing cattle,
the nearness of Lord Jesus to us—his blessing to children and his tender care.
Let us sing “Away in a Manger.”