Ruminations about assimilation come naturally to Jews in North America at the winter holiday season. How much should a parent insist that Hanukkah is part of public school celebrations that give students a heavy dose of Christmas?
Joseph and Mary remind us that Christmas is a genuine love story--the story of God's unwavering love for us and our love for him; the marvelous love of a wife and a husband and the joyous wonder of a first child.
Deck the halls with boughs of holly, whatever the hell that means. Break out the ugly sweaters. Get those antlers on the SUV. Tis the season to be jolly. Put a smile on your face. It could be worse. Christmas could be a Jewish Holiday.
I've never heard anyone point to Joseph as an icon of biblical manhood. If the Gospel according to Matthew were packaged like People magazine, Joseph of Nazareth's face would grace the cover, for Joseph is the lead story in Matthew's Gospel -- and not for chiseled abs.
And there is the key to Christmas joy. The little-known secret of Christmas is that our joy is full when we study and learn from Mary as servant, God as servant, Jesus as servant, and become servants ourselves. When we do, our joy will be full.
With just a few days to go before Christmas, many Americans will be rushing around completing their Christmas preparations: doing their last minute shopping, finalizing travel plans, figuring out how to deal with awkward family dynamics.
It was because of this beauty, along with Joseph's attendant arrogance and Jacob's favoritism, that Joseph's brothers hated him with a hatred like a thick, dark shadow eclipsing the light of this dazzling boy.
The Zohar, the central text of Jewish mysticism, teaches that we are all "children from the chamber of yearnings." I hope this year we listen not only to ourselves - to the echo chamber of our own dreams - but to others.
While Christians put decorations away, vacuum up the tinsel, and find places to put our new toys, I often wonder what it all means. After the pregnant longing, after the birth, how do we understand that God is with us?