Christmas Eve 2020
Have you ever had one of those moments when you just knew – an ‘AHA!’ moment they are sometimes called – when you know deep inside your being that things are just as they should be – you are in the right place at the right time - there is a oneness that exists between you and your surroundings or your circumstances – an alignment if you will of stars and planets – a knowing that the Universe supports what is happening and that, indeed, all will be well. Such moments often defy the realities we see around us. They come unbidden – peaking around from behind when we are otherwise unaware. In fact, we are often, instead, very aware of a situation that is plaguing us, caught perhaps in the tension between choices we are to make, tired from trying maybe a little too hard, caught up in the whirlwind of indecision or confusion or simple indifference wrought of the day-to-day waring down of our emotions.
I imagine Mary, finding herself with child, a child not of her betrothed, but of circumstances we can only guess at given the harsh nature of the times in which she lived. What would people think? How would Joseph respond? And then came the moment of knowing that it would be okay, that this child would be blessed and a blessing, as are all children. The story says she heard it from a divine messenger, and I can imagine that it felt that way as she received the courage needed to bring this child, this love, into a world fraught with oppression – violence - hatred.
The shepherds, too, knew that change was in the wind – that hope was on the horizon. So strong was their sense of it that they set out see for themselves – to share what had occurred to them with the new mother who pondered it all in her heart. In her heart – where true knowing is sparked – well before it gets to our minds.
The astrologers attribute their knowing to a star – a new and unique star in the eastern sky it says – an alignment that would be the harbinger of a new age perhaps. Frightening for most and especially disturbing to a king who sought to maintain his power. Sent on a mission based on false pretenses, they knew once they arrived that they had been duped. We are told that they were advised in a dream – that place of the mind’s sorting out of events and emotions – those too complex for our waking hours – not to return to Herod. They awoke with a sense of knowing that changed the course of their journey.
And Joseph, too, knew that in order to keep his young family safe, he would need to make a change in plans – relocate – go into hiding for a time – until the threat had passed. They packed their things and traveled over the border to Egypt, beyond the hand of the king.
So, courage – hope - new directions, all bubble up to the surface of this Christmas tale as I read it. Courage to face the unexpected with calm and ease. Hope for the ushering in of a new time when love reigns. The openness to strike out in new directions, change plans mid-course and trust that you will be accompanied by a peace and a presence that ensures safe haven.
There has been no shortage of things to fear in our midst this year. If you are at all like me, you are tired of the rhetoric and discord that rules the airwaves and influences people toward hatred and distrust. And we don’t know how it will all turn out, do we, or how best to respond all the time, what action to take, what direction to go in. We wrestle with it in our heads. But we can know, if we allow ourselves the time to lay it all down and to listen – listen for the still small voice in our hearts that guides us on our path. We can have a sense of peaceful acceptance of changes we cannot affect and believe that love will win the day. We can set our course toward that love, knowing that we aren’t going to be able to access it in the usual ways for a while, but that it lives in the hearts of our companions on the journey and so we reach out by whatever ‘never before dreamed of’ means we are given to be blessed and blessing both at a time when we need one another more than ever. In so doing, grace happens.
We are touched by a sense of things, sacred or set apart from the ordinary. With Bonhoeffer, we know a Greater Love in the human beings we encounter. We hear it in the angel’s voices on the phone or see it in the smile over a zoom connection. We carefully receive gifts of the meals we need to get by sent through Cape nonprofits or prepared by loving hands in our community of faith. From our windows we gratefully wave our thanks for deliveries from our local route’s mail carriers, UPS and FedEx drivers who risk in order that we stay safe. They smile back with their eyes! We share it in conversations where difference exists, but where respect for one another overshadows any need for competition.
There is a knowing that traverses across human interaction – connection – a deep knowing that as a humanity we are one. With Mary, we take courage as we face the unexpected. With the shepherds, we realize that hope needn’t be a distant dream and set our sails. Love, ever present with us from the beginning of time will rise up if we let it. With the wise ones and Joseph, we embark on new paths.
Spirit of Deep Knowing – Open our hearts to the divine messengers in our lives – fill us with a sense of knowing that gives us courage to face the unforeseen with serenity and peace. On this Christmas Eve may the story of the babe in Bethlehem instill in us renewed hope for the days ahead. May the love apparent in the nativity scene we have come to know enter into us and heal the cold, unsheltered parts of ourselves; the parts that are lonely and on the road. May we be reminded of the love that is present here with us in this community of faith as we companion one another on a journey into the yet unknown territory before us, prepared to birth a new story in our midst. Messengers we are, each to the other, of the goodness and sacredness that dwells in the human heart; bearers of the wisdom and strength this time calls out for. May we be blessed and blessing both. Amen.