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  • Baby Jesse: A Christmas Fable

    • Posted on Dec 25, 2014
    This was first published in the Courier many Christmases ago, and repeated occasionally over the years.    Many readers reacted with positive and thoughtful comments, and a few others with sheer outrage that anyone would tamper with the original story. 

    I thought it was just a variation on a theme--and therefore legitimate and quite supportable.  

    So I offer it again for this Christmas, 2014, thinking that its lesson still holds true.  
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Every December Christians repeat the same story, and even non-Christians have to admit it’s a great plot.

     It pits the meek against the mighty, poor against the rich, the outcasts against the insiders.  It’s complete with a joyous ending, not to mention the founding of a world religion.

     It’s so powerful that no one thinks twice about recycling it every year.  The same ought to go for alternative versions, such as the following recycled Christmas fable, which I wrote years ago, freely adapted from the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

    Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for this which is conceived in her is of the holy spirit.

    She will bear a son or daughter and you shall call his or her name Jesus or Jesse, for he or she will save his or her people from their sins.”

     While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to be delivered.  Lo and behold, Mary gave birth to their first-born daughter and wrapped her in swaddling clothes and laid her in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  

    Following the angels’ suggestion, she named her child Jesse.

    Now in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all about them.  They were sore from riding camels all day but now they were also sore afraid.

    And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Jesse the Queen.

     “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

      When the angels went away from them into heaven the shepherds said to one another, “A little GIRL, our savior?  Can this be true?”

     “A female savior? A lady Lord?  Women can BIRTH saviors, but they cannot BE one.  Everyone knows that!”

    And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph.  They looked with wonder on the babe lying in the manger.  And they made known that which had been told them concerning this child; all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

    But the shepherds were no longer sore afraid.  Now they were just plain  sore. 

     “What happened to the good old days,” they grumbled, “when only BOYS could be saviors?  Has anyone ever heard of a little girl becoming anything but a wife, an old maid, or a witch?”

    The shepherds grew discouraged and went home, thinking the real savior had not yet been born.  “Probably some maverick angels,” one of them said, “Or maybe that frankincense is getting old.”

     Along the way, they met three wise men who had also heard the news.  The shepherds stopped the wise men, saying “Turn back. Save your frankincense and myrrh. Wait until the real savior comes along. This one’s only a baby girl named Jesse.”

    And Mary, mother of Jesse, kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

     “What if little Jesse had been born a boy?” she wondered, after she and Joseph had returned home. Would he have been worshiped as a real savior?”

    Mary prayed nightly that if her daughter Jesse had any special powers she would keep them to herself.  Little boys with special powers, she knew, often became saviors, founders of great religions.  Little girls with special powers were usually burned as witches.

    Baby Jesse grew nto a wonderful woman, a friend to all in need, and wise beyond all men.  Thanks to her mother’s teaching, she never used her miraculous powers, and never married.

    Jesse lived and died in obscurity, beyond of her small circle of friends. Meanwhile, all around the world, wise men kept waiting for the real savior.

    Merry Christmas, everyone.
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    Posted in
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Holidays
    • Christmas
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
  • Thankful for Small Hope at Thanksgiving

    • Posted on Nov 23, 2014
    Today's Courier column--seems like a dark time, so finding hope is both a challenge and a necessity.  

    I manage to get Joni Ernst, Bruce Braley, Jon Huntsman, Dave Loebsack, Jeff Danielson, and the UNI Concert Chorale and Marching Band all together in one place.  That's never been done.   
    ********************************************************
    Anyone who’s lived slightly past adolescence has had this experience.  You 
    want to exercise (or whatever), you set up a routine, stay with it, then it all goes away.  A week or a month later you’re back to no exercise (or whatever).

    Good intentions are no match for time passing and a powerful default position.  
    So too with current politics.  We want a working, effective, problem-solving government.   We want gridlock to go away.  We vote for candidates hoping they’ll work together.  “Voters want us to break out of gridlock,” candidates assert before and shortly after getting elected.

     A week later, they’re gridlocked tighter than ever, the airwaves ruled by threats and counter-threats.   Abandon hope, all ye who enter politics.   

    Yet that way lies madness, or at least utter dysfunction and long-term failure,  as Iowa Senator Jeff Danielson pointed out in last Sunday’s Courier.   He asserts, “We will need a new ethic of political leadership.  One that emphasizes the skills of bridge leaders and problem solvers, rather than partisan hacks who’ve gotten really good at divide-and-conquer tactics.”  

    He’s right, and offers a ray of hope in a dark, frozen political landscape. 

     It’s clear to Danielson and others close to current politics that no one wants where gridlock leads.   And our problems are only getting bigger. Ignoring them won’t make them go away.  

     Maybe because it’s Thanksgiving, I’m thinking not all is lost.   Consider:

    1.   Republicans have risen to real political power, so they must discover how to say “yes” to action that will solve problems.   If they’re not suicidal as a party, they know that oblivion awaits those with nothing but “no” on their lips.   They hate Obama and his immigration plan, so they have to offer a viable alternative.  Same with Obamacare.  These alternatives must be acceptable to at least a few Democrats and the President.  Can they manage to come up with genuinely viable, workable plans acceptable to people beyond their base?                                                                                                                  
    We’re waiting.   

     2.   The emerging generation.  Young adults will become our leaders sooner than we think, and I find them committed, lively, savvy, and engaged. Last week I attended a UNI concert chorale performance as they prepare for a goodwill musical tour of Estonia next month.  They made excellent music, and just as excellent ambassadors of what we’re really all about.   You can’t feel hopeless around these students, and the same with members of the UNI Marching Band, off to London to march in a huge British Christmas parade.  As long as they’re going into the world with their enthusiasm and commitment, all is not lost.  

     3. The “No Labels” non-profit organization.  Here’s a recently formed group that’s taking direct action to get both conservative and liberal political leaders together, discussing issues and trying to resolve differences.  Remember when members of both parties chose to sit together at a State of the Union address?  That was a small initiative from this group.  

     Two recent books explore and explain what they’re doing and why:  “Just the Facts,” by the No Labels Foundation, subtitled “The First Step in Building a National Strategic Agenda for America,” and “No Labels, A Shared Vision for a Stronger America.”  

     As Jon Huntsman, one of the founders of “No Labels” puts it, “No Labels would respect the two-party system, embracing the most stalwart Republicans, the most ardent conservatives and the most passionate liberals.  Everyone would have a place at the table, as long as they were committed to putting their country first and working in good faith with the other side.”  

     We non-politicians can join and support their initiatives, and even become part of their discussions. Check out www.nolabels.org for how.  Incidentally, Representative Dave Loebsack has joined, as has Bruce Braley.  

    Oh yes, and Joni Ernst. 

    Hope does spring eternal.  Let’s give thanks for that.  
    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Conservatives/Liberals
    • Holidays
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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