Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gospel Text for Sunday, 1 January 2012

Luke 2:15-21
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

1 comment:

  1. All who heard the shepherd’s message from the angels were amazed. But what does that actually mean? In the 21st century the word ‘amazed’ is generally used to convey surprise or shock when encountering the unexpected. 2000 years ago in the language of the New Testament the word ‘amazed’ described those who heard the words of the shepherds as terrified or alarmed and bewildered. For me it conjures up the image of ancient Middle Eastern folks stopped in their tracks, speechless and confounded.

    But Mary’s response was different. Mary was not afraid or alarmed; rather she “treasured the words and pondered them in her heart.” In other words, Mary had a singular response to the shepherd’s announcement. Mary received the shepherd’s announcement as a gift or treasure; she took the words in and held them in her heart, her spiritual center. Mary guarded and considered the words, she reflected on what they might mean for her and her newborn son. As Mary pondered these things, she brought them together in her mind. Today we might say Mary was connecting the dots.

    Much as the shepherds heard the announcement from the angel of God, acted on the announcement and immediately went to “see the thing that has taken place,” found it to be so and then proceeded to tell others, so too did Mary receive an announcement from the angel Gabriel and consent to it with her words, “let it be with me according to Your word.’ Ten months later, with the birth of her son and the proclamation of the shepherds, Mary connected the dots; she came to ‘know’ the truth of the message in the depths of her heart. Both Mary and the shepherds understood the angels promises had been fulfilled in their experience.

    What distinguishes the shepherds and Mary from the other folks who were “amazed” is the way in which they related with God. Rather than experience God as a bewildering, overwhelming if not terrifying external force Mary and the shepherds experienced an interior communion with God. In the depths of their very being they came to ‘know’ and experience Divine Presence. And this is precisely what the story is about, Incarnation, the revelation of Divinity in humanity.

    Mary, the Mother of God, gave birth to the revelation that humanity and Divinity are not apart. And Mary reveals to us the way of being in intimate relationship with God. We are invited to receive the Word of God, ponder it in the depths of our hearts and allow ourselves to be changed, to embody Divine Presence. Humanity is meant to be the continuing revelation of Divinity. “May it be with me (and thee) according to Your will.” That is my prayer for this New Year.