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The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon

The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at The Divinity School, Duke University. He retired after serving eight years as Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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Bishop Will Willimon: A Christmas Parable

December 27, 2011

A Christmas story, can't remember where I heard it, but I tell it to you as you begin your own celebration of Christmastide.

There was a time when all the angels where gathered about the heavenly throne for a discussion. Things were in a mess down on earth. (What else is new?) The Creator had become concerned about the state of the Creation - wars, fighting, famine, bloodshed all over.

"I've tried everything," God complained. "I have spoken to them some of the most beautiful words they could ever hope to hear. Think of the glorious Psalms, the hymns, the poetic passages of Isaiah. They love to read about peace and goodwill, but they don't like to live it!"

God continued, "Then I sent them the prophets. They love Isaiah, the promises of release from their sufferings, freedom from their exile. But do they follow the precepts of the prophets about justice and righteousness rolling down like waters? Never!"

There was widespread discussion of the sad state of affairs on earth. Many of the angels - Gabriel, Michael, and others had been on earth on many an occasion. They had seen for themselves the sources of God's lament and shared God's concern.

"I think the only thing left is for one of you, a member of the heavenly court, to go down to earth. Live with them, not just for a moment, but every day. Get to know them, become one of them, live with them, let them get to know you. Only then will heaven's intent be truly communicated to them. Only then will they take notice of the great gap between the way they have been living and the way they were created. Only then will we be able to reveal to them who I created them to be."

The angels stood in awkward silence. They had been to earth before, to deliver messages from God or to effect some momentary intervention in human affairs. They weren't about to volunteer for long term duty in such a murderous, difficult place.

The silence lasted for an eternity. Finally, God broke the silence. Quietly, determinedly, but without resignation and no bitterness, God said, "Then I will go."

This is a parable of Incarnation.

[Taken with permission from the Bishop's blog, North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, Dec. 27, 2011.]

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