Luke 2:1-14 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Reflection There is something profoundly different between receiving your run of the mill Christmas present (even if it happens to be gold, frankincense and myrhh) and receiving an infant. The former gifts we receive, pull off the bow, tear the wrapping (or if you are my Godmother, she can remove the wrapping paper without issuing a scar or a crinkle). Whatever our style, we unwrap the gift, recognize what is inside, take it and possess it. It does not work quite that way with an infant.
Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends extend their empty hands to receive an infant having absolutely no idea what is inside. Whether it takes a week or a lifetime all the people who received the infant eventually figure out, they cannot possess this child. All they can do is commit to being in relationship with the child, to loving the child and experiencing the child as her or his true being is gradually revealed.
I believe there is no better metaphor for the gradual unfolding of the revelation of God with us. We come to know incarnate God in our lived experience, in our committed relationship with God and one another. Gradually we come to know God in moments of delight and dollups of despair, in glimpses of peace, joy and love and pockets of fear, anger and lonliness. The spiritual reality is this, every moment of our lives is full of God with us. The thing is, most of the time we are too distracted to notice.
When we pause and savor each moment (regardless of whether we judge the moment as favorable or not) it is like receiving an infant into our empty hands and open hearts; we experience the true gift of Christmas. And if, ever so carefully we listen, we can almost hear the angels saying, “"Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
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