In a room, someplace,

wood creaks and cracks and crackles

under pressure

and heat,

smoking, flickering flames

warming, lighting, luring

you into imagination

as

the glockenspiel is pealing,

and angels echoing eerie,

echoing dreamy,

and that familiar baritone

comforts with his crooning:

Do you see what I see?

Louis Armstrong once said that voice was

“like gold being poured out of a cup.”[1]

His voice melts over the flames before you:

A star, a star

Dancing in the night

A log pops like a director yelling

“Action!”

Blink your eyes so you can see.

A desert, someplace,

Gold glitter poured out in the night sky,

Astrologers from Persia,

Wise ones from the East,

Chasing the trail of a comet above them

With a tail as big as a kite

Or was that Breaking News?

a desert someplace,

white letters scrolled along the bottom,

people in Persia,

or somewhere in the Middle East,

fleeing the trails of rockets over top of them,

With a tail as big as a kite.

Some say history repeats itself,

probably “mimics” is more accurate,

it certainly doesn’t repay itself —

if that were the case,

the kindness of Persian mystics

might be relayed,

replayed,

repaid,

a bit differently.

Bing Crosby seems confused, too,

his song shifts with that log in front of you,

from Matthew’s story to Luke’s,

from Magi to shepherds,

from a star dabbing in the night

to a song high above the trees:

Do you hear what I hear?

Close your eyes so you can hear.

A crackle,

“Take 2!”

A palace, someplace,

an insecure ruler,

a jester’s court of yes men,

unaware of his own nation’s history,

traditions,

aspirations,

threatened by foreigners and infants,

threatening violence and coercion,

conspiring with the same foreign leaders who intimidate him,

enraged,

unhinged,

tearing children away from their parents,

Do you hear what I hear?

The song presses on,

like a family seeking asylum,

braving river and desert and unknowing,

as the chill travels your spine

like ash up the flue:

A child, a child

shivers in the cold,

let us bring him silver and gold.

Open your eyes so you can hear.

The hiss of the fire,

“Take 3!”

A small room, someplace,

a child screams,

cold,

afraid,

alone,

crying out in another language,

wailing for his mother in the middle of the night,

let us bring himsilver and gold —

or maybe frankincense and myrrh,

or at least aluminum foil blankets and toothpaste.

Do you hear what I hear?

Plug your ears but you still hear.

Listen to what I say:

The infant-God-King fleeing

the infantile-Narcissist-King,

God-is-our-refuge,

now God-is-a-refugee.

Do you see what I see?

The log gives out,

splashing up ashes like war paint

or that collateral snow that falls over bombed out homes in the Middle East,

yet the key changes,

and the song rises,

like the dawn breaking on high,

like the light piercing through cities of soot,

like the star’s spotlight a billion years in the making,

like the flame that warms both hearth and heart —

hope.

Said the king to the people everywhere

Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people, everywhere

Close your eyes so you can pray.

The composers admitted they changed the story,

Not just from Matthew to Luke,

Not just from Magi to shepherds,

Not just from that star to a song high above the trees:

They wrote in a king who prayed for peace,

even though they knew

mad kings don’t do such things,

but they hoped for it anyway;

prayed for it anyway;

because the Cuban Missile Crisis loomed large

and weaved that all-too-familiar pattern

of fear tracing proximity to power.

The child, the child
Sleeping in the night

He will bring us goodness and light

Open your eyes so you can see.

The Epiphany of Christ is that power is not located in the throne room of a palace poured out in gold

or a house painted white

or a military armed with nuclear warheads,

but in a room, someplace,

where vulnerability dwells,

upending kingdoms with the defenses of a nursing baby,

his swaddled wonder and utter dependence,

power resides in the resilience of those who dare to chase the dreams of survival,

in refugee camps or detention centers,

in bouts of depression or the throes of addiction

or inside freezing three-deckers,

power is kindled by those with the courage to be kinder,

to be compassionate,

to be curious.

Close your eyes so you can see.

Take 4:

In a room, someplace,

a fire grows,

not of wood or flame,

not of comets or rockets,

but of open hearts,

warmed by a Holy Wind,

illumined by the Light of the World,

unleashed by the Love of the God who dwells with us,

who lives within us —

all.

Open your hearts so you can see.

Do you see what I see?

[1]https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-2002-08-17-0208170143-story.html

sermon preached by Brent Newberry at First Baptist Church of Worcester, MA, January 5, 2020 for Epiphany Sunday.

Matthew 2:1–12; Isaiah 60:1–6

I'm a writer, and I enjoy dabbling in photography. I'm also a progressive minister, enneagram 4w3, ramen enthusiast, and human to my best dog Zooey Deschanel