“WHY SHOW YOUR TRUE COLORS?” (Mt 1:1-17): 17 December 2007 (Monday)

“WHY SHOW YOUR TRUE COLORS?” (Mt 1:1-17):  17 December 2007 (Monday)


Last March 2007, Cyndi Lauper appeared on “The View” and performed “True Colors,” which hit No. 1 on  the Billboard 100 charts almost twenty years ago.  Gone were the outrageous costume and the wildly colored 80’s hair.  Also, compared to the 1986 music video, this live performance was less affected, more quiet and heartfelt, relaying the song’s message in a way that the original recording, as well as the excellent 1998 Phil Collins’ cover, were nowhere close to achieving.

Maybe the years have a way of aging songs and voices the way they do wine.  Think Joni Mitchell:  The 2000 film “Love Actually” surprised us with a reincarnation of her hit single “Both Sides Now” thirty years after its first release in 1969.  In the newer recording, Mitchell’s voice is raspier, her pitch not as perfect, but her interpretation has a wisdom and a tinge of bitterness not found in the first version.  Critics, comparing this newer interpretation to the original, have described it as “hauntingly beautiful.”

As we know, Cyndi Lauper’s song is an anthem for self-acceptance and invites us to “show our true colors.”  For some reason, I thought of that song when I learned that today’s gospel reading is about the genealogy of Jesus.  Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the reading isn’t just an enumeration of Old Testament names.  Biblical scholars tell us that included in the list are people who aren’t exactly perfect.  For example, somewhere in there are two women, Rahab and Tamar, whom PR consultants today would probably hesitate to include in their press releases.

You see, both women did not exactly have good reputations.  True, according to the book of Joshua, Rahab helped the Israelite spies and eventually became an honorable woman.  But she was a prostitute in Jericho before that!  Tamar, on the other hand, was one of Judah’s daughters-in-law who, after the death of two husbands, disguised herself as a temple prostitute to get her father-in-law to father her child.  Not exactly something to announce to the world if you’re claiming that you’re the Messiah.

And so my question for the Lord today is:  Why include notorious men and controversial women in your family tree?  In other words, “Why show your true colors?”

Think about it:  When God chose to be human, he really could have designed the perfect resumé for himself—including a squeaky-clean lineage.  I mean, why stop with an immaculately conceived mother?  Why not extend the same exemption from original sin to all your fathers and forefathers?  But instead of doing that, God decided to be completely human—including having an imperfect genealogy just like the rest of us.  I think he’s trying to tell us something.

First, maybe he really is one of us.  Maybe he really is human in every way because he has chosen to share our lot—including a less-than-perfect lineage.  And because of that, he knows and understands our difficulties because he himself has experienced them.  He knows firsthand what the song is talking about when it says, “It’s hard to take courage / in a world full of people. / You can lose sight of it all / And the darkness inside you / can make you feel so small.”

Secondly, maybe he’s setting an example.  Maybe he is showing his true colors because he wants us to do the same–not just our brighter colors, but our duller and darker colors as well.   Anyway, he has seen them and loves us not in spite of them, but on account of them.  But of course, showing our true colors first requires that we ourselves first accept them and own them.  For others to accept our shadows, we need to name them and befriend them.  And only when we accept and love ourselves more completely will we be able to accept the complete love that God is offering us.  In other words, we need to learn to let him love us, whatever our stripes.

If we can find God in all things, surely we can hear what he has to say to us today through a Cyndi Lauper song.  So, take a listen.


Note:  I have uploaded Cindy Lauper’s live performance of the song if you want to watch it.  Here are the lyrics:

(Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg)

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow

Show me a smile then,
Don’t be unhappy, can’t remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there

And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow

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