Christmas I – Nativity
2019 – Cycle ABC
Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Except for his peasant parents and maybe a bystander or two and some animals, have you ever considered that the world was not aware of the birth of Jesus. No one noticed and no one was moved; an ordinary event among tens of thousands of births that occurred that day and every day.
Busy with protecting their livelihood, the shepherds had to be told about it and given signs and directions. Magi, priest – astrologers, foreigners will eventually be offered dreams and stars. Caesar Augustus and Quirinius will forever remain oblivious.
Did you ever consider that his is how God pretty much always comes into our lives?
…from out in left field when we are looking in another direction, …indirectly, like a curve ball, …unexpected, even though we’ve been told time and again to stay awake and keep watch, …through a side comment, an innocuous note, an annoying interruption that all seems at the moment…irrelevant.
And how can we notice when, like the shepherds, we are protecting our livelihoods, caring for our children and parents, mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, shoveling the snow, taxiing the kids, worrying about our loved ones, making the coffee, getting to work, picking up groceries, helping with homework, mourning our dead, making sure mom takes her medication on time, baking for the church, stopping at the nursing home, watching how we walk so as not to trip over our cane and slip and fall, putting another iron in the fire because we cannot say ‘no’, feeling sorry for ourselves, babysitting the grandchildren…
Can we understand why you and I often miss the presence and actions of God so near at hand?
Some of us though, have experienced that moment of recognition. We find it in that quiet stillness of light penetrating the horizon in the earliest moments of dawn. We were staying up all night with a sick or dying family member or maybe that is the ordinary time you need to arise for work. We notice an ever so slight change in the light of the room while the stars still punctuate the sky and the sun has hours yet to break the horizon. We notice but we don’t. Living and partly living.*
And so we hold on to the title, “Prince of Peace”, though we humans have rarely known peace. We cradle an image of a virgin – mother and child in our hearts though we have long ago lost our innocence and child – likeness. We bask in the glare of decorative LEDs because a false light is better than no light in the growing darkness of the violence and ‘strong men’, refugees and teen suicides, protests and national divisions, climate change and mass shootings of our world.
But light cannot be perceived without darkness.
That is how we know God still comes among us. God gently suggesting, whispering, dawning on our lives when we least expect it despite our lack of noticing or even caring.
And therein maybe lies the greater mystery of Christmas, not that God became a human being in Jesus of Nazareth but that we are so loved even when we don’t realize it. Even when we don’t realize it God has slipped in unnoticed.
*T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral