Luke 2 for Dummies

Governments have always been as they are today, in need of money to finance wars and roads. To collect money from those whom they govern, governments levy taxes. In ancient times, so we’re told, these taxes were based on censuses. If all the people were counted, then the government would know how many households to tax.
For the sake of argument, let’s say a tax census occurred somewhere in the area of the world we call “the Middle East.” Ordered by an Italian absentee landlord who needed more troops to fight a war in England, this landlord (we’ll call him Caesar) says, “I’ll count and tax people on the other side of the world to pay for my war in northern Europe.”

Two people who lived in the “Middle East” got the message that people counting was required. One of these two was a young, pregnant, woman. She was engaged to the other person. Officially, he was the one going to be counted. They weren’t married, but since they were about to be married and she was about to have a baby, she was coming along for the ride.

Under the Italian’s rules, to be counted, you had to go to your hometown (they lived in a place called “somewhere”) and register with the census office in that city. So the couple headed to the man’s hometown. They had to travel from where they were lived to a different location. His hometown had a different name. It was south of over there but between verses four and five. It was called “the place.”

When they arrived at “the place” the girl was ready to give birth to her baby. The man had trouble finding lodgings for him and his fiancé. His relatives were unable to host them. The few “haberdasheries” in “the place” were full. In time, she gave birth in a “thing” because there was no room for them at any of the “haberdasheries.” The girl wrapped the baby in a bunch of “stuff” and laid him in a “thing.”   Despite the inadequacies of the “stuff” and the unsanitary nature of the “thing”; all seemed right with the world.

A cow appeared. At first, the man thought the cow was lost. Why would a random cow appear in a “thing” just as his child was born?   Shoo cow, shoo.  When he eventually realized the cow bore a child carrying an 18th-century snare drum, he understood this to be a sign from God. Only God would give an infant such a noisy, useless gift. The cow was soon followed by donkeys, goats, and shepherds.

In a bar on the edge of town, the sheep people encountered a group of folk singing extraterrestrials. Despite their reluctance to sing “Go Tell it On the Mountain” in A minor, the shepherds understood their instructions from the angel band to go into “the place” and look for a baby wrapped in “stuff” and lying in a “thing.”  Never ones to reject a challenge, especially on a Saturday night, they went:  grown men to wake a newborn baby and his exhausted mother.  No way this could end poorly.

There he was, just as they were promised, a baby from “somewhere,” now in a “place,” wrapped in “stuff,” lying in a “thing.” They couldn’t wait to tell the world what they’d seen.

What were they going to tell?

Yeah, that thing about the baby in the place.  It makes perfect sense to me.

Richard Lowell Bryant


Confessions of a 44 year old Still United and Still Methodist Curmudgeon

I like to read from my Harper Collins NRSV Study Bible.  I’m pro-NRSV.  I’ll tell you this.  You’ll never find a themed NRSV translation such as the Beaver Hunting, SideCar Racing, Goat Riding, American Idol, Lacrosse Coaching, Pet Grooming NRSV devotional Bible.  You’ll never locate one.  They don’t make them.  Why?  Bibles ought to be Bibles, not lifestyle accessories.   I’m old enough to remember when people knew that instinctively.

I don’t have a cover on my iPad.  Why would I put one on my Bible?

I don’t like to read hymn lyrics off the wall.  If you’re my optometrist and a worship leader who uses song lyrics to test my failing vision, I’ll make an exception.  Otherwise, pick up a book. Books built western civilization.  Do you know where we read about people who wrote on walls (i.e. cave painters)?  In books.

Jesus didn’t use tiny plastic shot glasses. If you want to do communion right, you use the big cup.  Sip and dip.  We call it “intinction.”  It is 2018, ride the wave back to 1st-century Eucharistic authenticity.

No one uses the term “Last Supper” except to describe paintings and what convicts eat on death row.  Methodists have Holy Communion or celebrate the Eucharist.   Maybe the last supper people are the ones holding on to the little shot glasses?

I’m the one leading the worship service, and sometimes I lose my attention span.  Keep it balanced (between sitting and standing) and don’t go over an hour.  Sometimes it can’t be helped.  On most occasions, preachers start repeating themselves because they’re afraid to sit down and shut up.  Thus, extended services can be prevented.

Go to the bathroom before the service begins.  Do you realize how distracting it is to be preaching when you see people just get up and leave?  You don’t know if they’re mad or have to pee.  If you do have to go, leave by an unobtrusive exit.  Don’t march down the center aisle in the middle of the sermon.  Honestly, what are you thinking?

Turn your phone off.  God called me and said to tell you to put your phone on silent.  Who calls people while they are in church?   Apparently, more than I’ve imagined.  People won’t talk to their friends or relatives all week then suddenly, sometime after 11 on Sunday mornings, the phones start to ring.  Reach out, reach out and touch someone.  Just not on Sunday morning between 11am and 12pm!

I would love to talk to you about planning your wedding at 10:55 on a Sunday morning.  No, the congregation will wait.  That’s the best time to ask me anything.

From where I stand, I see everything.  Did I mention gum chewing?  Grown-ups, adults, chewing gum in church.  Spit it out.  What is this, some Disney special where you’ve switched bodies with your children?

I don’t care who lights the candles just as long as they’re lit.  It’s great when the acolytes show up and the schedule is followed.  In the end, are they burning when the first hymn is sung?  That’s what matters.  We need contained fire in the church.

The 44 Year Old Still United and Still Methodist Curmudgeon

(Putting the Protest back in Protestant)

Mid-Life Posers on the Monday Morning Highway of Life (Summer Songs Volume IV)


Middle aged man with the skateboard,
It’s time to buy two things
A Car and a pair shoes,
Looking cool are you, no
Holding up traffic, yes you do.
The angry man in the Volkswagen,
The bald guy in the driver’s seat,
That’s me and I’m late for my
Mahatma Gandhi study group to meet.

–Richard Bryant

Don’t Check Your Brain When You Sign the Rental Agreement

NOT the Entrance to Howard Street, Ocracoke Island

Where I live,
The place I sleep,
You need to know,
It’s a one way street,
I don’t care what the DOT states,
It’s a path,
A road,
And not on a map,
That being said,
It’s narrow and scary,
And man on the golf cart,
It goes THAT WAY!

–Richard Bryant