No church today at FPC Elizabethton.
With the combination of winter weather and it being the day after Christmas, it would be me talking to myself.
I was going to tell stories about Jesus' birth and childhood that didn't make it into the Bible, like this one from The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew:
There is a road that goes from Jericho to the Jordan River, to the place where the children of Israel crossed, which is also where they say the ark of the covenant rested.
When Jesus was eight years old he left Jericho and headed for the Jordan. Next to the road, near the bank of the Jordan, there was a cave where a lioness was nursing her cubs; it was not safe for anyone to walk past it. Jesus, on his way from Jericho, knowing that that cave was where the lioness had given birth to her cubs, went into it in front of everyone. When the lions saw Jesus, they ran to meet him and worshiped him. Jesus sat down in the cave and the lion’s cubs ran around at his feet, nuzzling him and playing with him. The older lions stood at a distance with their heads bowed and worshiped him, showing their affection for him with their tails.
Then the people who did not see him because they were standing a long way off said, “He would not voluntarily have offered himself up to the lions unless he or his parents had committed serious sins.”
The people were thinking along these lines and were overcome by sorrow when, all of a sudden, in full view of the people, Jesus came out of the cave with the lions parading in front of him and the cubs playing with each other at his feet. Jesus’ parents stood a long way off and watched with their heads bowed. The people also stood at a distance because of the lions; no one dared approach them. Then Jesus began speaking to the people. “The wild animals are so much better than you are: they recognize their Lord and give him glory, while you humans, who have been made in the image and likeness of God, do not know him! Wild animals know me and are tame; humans see me but do not acknowledge me.”
After all this, Jesus crossed the Jordan with the lions as everyone watched. And the water of the Jordan was parted, on the right and on the left. Then, in front of everyone, he said to the lions, “Go in peace and harm no one; but don’t let anyone hurt you either, until you get back to the place from which you’ve come.” They told him good-bye, not only with their gestures but with their voices as well, and went home. Then Jesus went home to his mother.
A wonderful Christmas story is Dance in the Desert by Madeleine L'Engle. It is based on the Holy Family's journey to Egypt as accounted in The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew:
CHAP. 18.--And having come to a certain cave, and wishing to rest in it, the blessed Mary dismounted from her beast, and sat down with the child Jesus in her bosom. And there were with Joseph three boys, and with Mary a girl, going on the journey along with them. And, lo, suddenly there came forth from the cave many dragons; and when the children saw them, they cried out in great terror. Then Jesus went down from the bosom of His mother, and stood on His feet before the dragons; and they adored Jesus, and thereafter retired. Then was fulfilled that which was said by David the prophet, saying:The Divine Child. Life without fear. It's Christmas.
Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons; ye dragons, and all ye deeps.
And the young child Jesus, walking before them, commanded them to hurt no man. But Mary and Joseph were very much afraid lest the child should be hurt by the dragons. And Jesus said to them: Do not be afraid, and do not consider me to be a little child; for I am and always have been perfect; and all the beasts of the forest must needs be tame before me.
CHAP. 19.--Lions and panthers adored Him likewise, and accompanied them in the desert. Wherever Joseph and the blessed Mary went, they went before them showing them the way, and bowing their heads; and showing their submission by wagging their tails, they adored Him with great reverence. Now at first, when Mary saw the lions and the panthers, and various kinds of wild beasts, coming about them, she was very much afraid. But the infant Jesus looked into her face with a joyful countenance, and said: Be not afraid, mother; for they come not to do thee harm, but they make haste to serve both thee and me. With these words He drove all fear from her heart. And the lions kept walking with them, and with the oxen, and the asses, and the beasts of burden which carried their baggage, and did not hurt a single one of them, though they kept beside them; but they were tame among the sheep and the rams which they had brought with them from Judaea, and which they had with them. They walked among wolves, and feared nothing; and no one of them was hurt by another. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet:
Wolves shall feed with lambs; the lion and the ox shall eat straw together.
And a tune from Bruce Cockburn:
I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as frightening as they were before
But I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
And I'm wondering where the lions are...