The Second Bracelet

by Rev. Paul L. Escamilla, Senior Pastor

In Gioacchino Rossini’s operatic version of Cinderella, “La Ceneretola,” it is a bracelet rather than a glass slipper that Cinderella leaves behind at the ball. As she disappears into the night, Cinderella gives this bracelet to the prince while keeping a second, identical bracelet for herself. She tells the prince he must find the first bracelet’s match by finding her where she lives, before she will consent to marry him.

Why did Cinderella demand such a test of the prince, who on that very night was prepared to ask for her hand in marriage? Because she knew that the lovely mystery woman the prince met at the ball did not provide a complete picture of who she was—literally, a woman of ashes who took orders and endured insults for a living.

“Tonight,” she explains to the prince as she gives him the first bracelet, “I am decked in beautiful things—everyone is raving about me. But come and find me where I live; come and find me at home. Then, if you still like me when you see me there, I will marry you.”

We could say that Christmas is analogous to that magical night at the ball. There’s something of a dreamy quality to our contemporary depictions of Jesus’ birth, an atmosphere which seems to compel shepherds, magi, livestock, and people like you and me to behold the beauty of it all in wonder and admiration. We find there a Jesus “decked in beautiful things,” with everyone raving about him.

If we leave the ballroom, and follow Jesus further into the gospel story, we will discover that there is more to his person than swaddling cloths and swirling angels. It is as though at Christmas we have been given the first bracelet; to find the second will require our seeking Jesus “where he lives” — going forward in the gospels to observe his teaching, healing, prophesying, serving life, as well as his abandonment, suffering, death, and resurrection. In the course of the year that unfolds beyond Christmas, we will see Jesus enumerate certain rather unwieldy expectations for those who claim to follow God, remembering the lost and forgotten in his teachings and healings to a degree many find disproportionate. He will invite us to follow him down paths we would hardly have chosen for ourselves, paths of repair and reconciliation, honest challenge and gentle compassion. He seems to believe these paths hold the greatest promise for healing both the world out there and the heart in here.

Jesus the holy child of Bethlehem has grown up to become Jesus the offender/befriender. In the candlelight of the ballroom he swept us off our feet; in the natural light of the following day, he may call us down from our pedestals that he might know us, befriend us, and send us into the world. The twin bracelets of adoration and self-giving go hand in hand in the Christian life. One seeks the other as surely as love seeks loyalty.

I look forward to all we will share of worship, study, and serving in this new year in our quest to join the second bracelet with the first.

Grace and peace.