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Archive for December, 2012

The holy family

Posted by Ron George on December 26, 2012

The Nativity by Laura James

The Nativity by Laura James

[Editor’s note: This message was originally published in 2005 at Lectionary Notes blog.]

When we gather with the holy family to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are far from the maddening crowds of the so-called holiday season. We are in a quiet place, a place where a baby might sleep, where even the hymns of angels are but a distant echo. We are far from the noise of a world that seems to go madder every day preoccupied with politics, pride and perdition. We are, at least for the moment, at peace with ourselves, conscious of something greater than the sum of our desires for wealth and power, something deeper still than the sin that besets us. We tend to look into the eyes of those nearest and dearest to us and see the face of God. We are reminded, if only for a moment, a holy night, that God is just that near, always, if only we would remember.

It isn’t easy for us to ignore our knowledge of what will befall this baby in a manger, but we should try, if only for a moment, a holy night, to set aside that knowledge of things to come and let the hope of Christmas fill our hearts and minds. For despite the pain and suffering of this holy family, despite the hardship and deprivation, this night of the birth of Emmanuel is about a family and the miracle of a new life to be lived before God. It is the story of a mother and her child and the prayer of every mother for her child that all will be well.

What adult among us has looked upon a sleeping child and not felt the wonder of witnessing a miracle? Every child, in every place and in every time is a miracle of God’s grace and steadfast love, born of flesh to become one with God in spirit and in truth. Every mother and father knows this, regardless of their religious tradition, and that truth becomes most visually potent when we see a child asleep, so vulnerable and willing to let itself be loved. When we are admonished by Jesus to become as children, this is what he means – to let ourselves be loved, as though a child asleep in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, adored by shepherds, angels, and most of all, his mother.

Holy Family Laura James

The Holy Family at Nativity by Laura James

It’s hard at this time of year not to think of Mary as the mother of God. How else for God to become flesh than for a woman to be willing to let herself become what Orthodox Christians call “Theotokos,” or “God bearer”? It doesn’t mean that Mary is more divine than the rest of us, for all Christians are called to be God-like in whatever way God calls us to be. It does mean that she had a unique role to play in history, for it was in history that God became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And it was in history that Mary gave birth to God made flesh and called his name, Jesus. He was Mary’s child, in history and in fact, not in myth, not “once upon a time,” but in the year that Caesar Augustus decreed that all the world would be taxed.

The peace and quiet of that stable in Bethlehem seem elusive most of the time. It does now and it did then, but that does not diminish the power of the moment, the presence of God in it and our sense that this moment is always accessible to us, any time and any place, if we will only turn to God and let that love wrap us in swaddling clothes and embrace us with steadfast love. It is the peace that passes all understanding, which sustains us no matter where or when we call upon it. It breeds hope where there seems to be none and heals the pain of all our self-inflicted wounds.

The irony is that, in the Christ child, God has entrusted himself to us. This is where we must bracket our knowledge of this child’s destiny and let ourselves be caught up in the hope of Christmas that, in our own time, we might not crucify the baby come of age, the challenging prophet born to pour himself out as a ransom for many. Let us hope, for now, that God has put himself in faithful hands, hands willing to become holy in service to the living Lord and to those he comes to redeem. Let us hope that we might find a place in our hearts for the Christ child ever to dwell, ever to remind us of that place of peace from which we may draw the power of love that overcomes all else in a world gone mad with politics, pride and perdition.

For we are of that holy family, made one with it in baptism and one with God in Christ. We are of that holy family, gathered in peaceful silence before the miracle of life that was the Christ child and is all life on earth. We are of that holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and of that holy family of God our father, creator of heaven and earth; God our mother, the spirit of wisdom, who leads us into all truth; and God our brother, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who rescues us from that which makes us stumble and fall.

We are one with God in Mary’s child, now and forever.

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