Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Morning

Christmas Morning  Luke 2: 1-20
Good morning and grace and peace to you.  

The sun comes up and the shepherds have made their visit and then returned to their flocks.  The village and home that seemed so calm and serene just a few hours before, with soft echoes of “silent night, holy night,” now waking up and beginning all the bustle of another work day.   People out in the street, workers heading out into the fields.  Washing, cleaning, cooking, feeding the animals.  Another day.   I imagine Joseph’s Bethlehem family must be fussing about the new born baby now, the women gathering around to tend to him and to assist his mother as she recovers from her delivery.  And there’s a lot of food to prepare—the first Christmas Dinner!  In those days I guess they probably didn’t hand out cigars, but I’m sure Joseph and some of the men will be laughing together, clapping on the shoulders.  Congratulations!  A son!

For me, this is where my favorite Bible verse comes in Luke’s telling of the story of the birth of Jesus. After the long night.  The exhausting last leg of the journey from Mary’s hometown in Nazareth to Joseph’s home in Bethlehem, the late arrival, settling in not in the place where guests would usually be received, but in the place where the animals are brought in for the night.  Then labor and delivery.   I hope Joseph was able to be at least a little helpful .  Boil some water, collect some clean sheets.   Perhaps a doula from the neighborhood was able to be found at that hour to help, or maybe some of the women in the extended family.  Luke doesn’t tell us.   In any event, the child is born.  Swaddled in a blanket.  Set in the straw of the manger.  And then the shepherds, and their story about the choirs of angels.  What an amazing, exhausting, overwhelming night!

And then Mary.  As morning comes, the new day dawns.  Trying to get a little rest after all that.  You ladies who have given birth even in less challenging environments can testify to what this first morning would be like for her.  We must imagine all in her thoughts then,  her memories.  The encounter with Gabriel back at her home in Nazareth, his angelic presence, the divine message of her election, the sudden movement of her heart in faith and love as she gave the word.  Fiat.  Let it be.  And then her visit to her cousin Elizabeth in the hill country.  The stirring of Elizabeth’s child, leaping in her womb!  Elizabeth’s words, full of the Holy Spirit.   “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

So, Luke 2:19: But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

It is a lot to think about, a lot to ponder.  For Mary, and for us.  To remember the story again and again.  To let it roll around in our minds and our hearts also.

As I say to the kids every year after our Children’s Pageant, this is the most familiar story in the world.  We know it by heart.  And yet every year, at every telling of the story, when we really listen, when we open our eyes and ears and minds and hearts, it becomes fresh and new and meaningful for us in ways that we have never imagined before.   Christ is born.  Emmanuel.  God with us.  Mercy and forgiveness and a new life.  Starting now.  We can spend a lifetime reflecting on that, and only scratch the surface.  It changes everything!  365 days a year can’t contain what Christmas has to say to us. 

Again, blessings and peace and joy this morning, in the day ahead.  In the week of Christmas, in the New Year.   As the hymn says, “ponder anew, what the Almighty can do, who with his love doth befriend thee.”  Merry Christmas. 

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