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December 29, 2005
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second is intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry to the poor and victims of natural disasters or war, through the work of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
What Is Your Real Name?

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. -- Luke 2:21

Which one is this? our guest asks.

That's Noodle, the smaller grey tiger. The big grey tiger is Gypsy. And the calico is What's-Her-Name.

Our granddaughters named Noodle and Gypsy. What's-Her-Name named herself. Probably she knew that the one who names you has authority over you, and she wasn't having any of that --- What's-Her-Name is her own boss.

Your parents name you. You can change your name legally when you grow up, but you're stuck with it until then. I never really cared for mine -- I had a hard time learning to write it when I was small, couldn't figure out when to stop writing b-a-r-b-a-r-b-a-r..... Besides, it looked fat to me, all those round b's and a's, and I was always sensitive about my weight.

But I never changed it. I could never think of another name that was really my name, so I guess it really is Barbara, and I have made my peace with it. It is the name they called me. The name of my childhood and my growing up. The name of my parents' authority and the name of my own autonomy -- the same name. I must have grown into it roundness.

We all grow into ourselves -- even those of us who do change their names. Jesus grew into himself, we are told a little later on in the story, and today we hear him named by his earthly parents, under whose guidance he will grow into the full stature of his paradoxical life: fully human and fully God, in an existence we will never fully fathom while we live only here, named for his divine work: God saves.

Exodus 34:1-8
Romans 1:1-7
Luke 2:15-21
Psalm 8
If you liked the eMo entitled "A Christmas Tomato," now you can see a picture of Q with his Christmas tomato salad at Just click on "daily messages" and then on "A Christmas Tomato."
And here is the ERD meditation:

Under the Stars

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. -- Luke 2:16

My husband built the little stable for our creche when he was twelve -- we know this because he proudly signed the back of it. We put the same straw in it every year, saved in an old envelope, and the same figures -- Mary Joseph, the shepherds and the angels, one of whom has lost the tip of one wing. The kings are in decent shape, but the camels have seen better days, and the page leading one of them is missing a hand. Jesus himself sleeps in the china cupboard all year, arriving in the manger only on Christmas Eve -- his head came off a few years ago and had to be glued back on, and the tiny manger he uses for a bed is too fragile to bear even a newspaper blanket.

The manger is really the only piece of hardware Luke mentions -- Matthew mentions a house, but not Luke. He doesn't even say Jesus was born in a stable -- just that his mother laid him in a manger. A feed trough. Who knows -- maybe there was no barn at all. The birth may have taken place under the stars. Or in a cave. Wherever someone might put a feeding trough to feed his animals.

Imagine -- having a baby under the stars! Imagine being cold and so afraid. Imagine the dark. We have a hard time imagining such a thing -- we check into our efficient hospitals with their warm, inviting birthing rooms; some of us have our babies with expert midwives in our own homes. But there have been many women this past year who didn't have to imagine it: it happened to them. One woman in New Orleans swam for half an hour while in labor, delivering her baby safely after being lifted out of the water by a helicopter. Several gave birth in the convention center. Countless women must have given birth outside after last year's tsunami, and more must be doing so right now in Pakistan and Kashmir. Under the stars or in a stable or in a cave -- such a birth would be a fearsome thing.

Mary swaddled her little boy: wrapped him up tight, so he could feel the security he used to feel in the months he lived and grew within her. Most traditional cultures swaddle their babies, and ours is starting to do it again, too. The babies seem to like it; it calms them to be confined. Of course, if all your baby things were in your house and your house disappeared in a matter of seconds, or is now filled with mud, you will need some help to swaddle your little one. To feed him. To keep him warm. To keep yourself strong enough to nurse him.

If you have your baby under the stars.

Episcopal Relief and Development continues to aid families recovering from the tsunami, from Hurricane Katrina, from the Pakistani earthquake, and to foster maternal and infant health in Africa, Central America and elsewhere. To learn how and to make a donation, visit or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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