"So let us pray for an angel not to confirm our views but to announce and enable God's contradicting news. Gloria! Gloria! In excelsis Deo! Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis."--Voces Angelorum, Words and music by John L. Bell
Our Advent is over, and the new season of Christmas...all 12 days of it...has arrived. The in-breaking of Love has come in a baby born in meager state to a teen-age mom, a man committed to this young girl and willing to raise a child not of his own making, and a world where "their people" were under the thumb of the Roman authority. Yet angels and stars will call upon the working-class members of society, the shepherds, and the scientific studious ones, the three wise men, to go see this newborn baby boy and his parents as they make a temporary home with horses, cows, and probably a few other noisy animals. Both are summoned to this place to bear witness to a new thing that is happening, and are convinced that this child is the one for whom the world has waited with great anticipation because this is the one who will "ransom captive Israel" and deliver it from the bondage of sin and death.
There is a lot of expectation placed on this baby. And clearly, even two thousand plus years later, there are millions of us who return to this story as a reminder of that hope that found a home in a manger, and not a palace, as we strive for a more just and loving society.
The fact that "home" for this Emmanuel, God with us, is among animals and rough conditions and not soft pillows and rose petals is where my mind has come to focus this season. There are many people in our country who are not enjoying comforts of home this season and I'm not talking strictly about those who, for whatever reason, find themselves homeless...or even those who, for reasons of culture and politics, are choosing to stay away from blood relations. The sense of "home" can be complicated if we attach too much importance to a Hallmark image of what that means and it can actually exacerbate whatever depression or pain might be present for some at this season of new birth. So let's just consider that in this story of Jesus' birth, "home" isn't some idyllic "place". "Home" is wherever you are, in whatever condition you are in, and God is meeting you in that place within you...in your lightness and your darkness...to take up residence in your heart and give you strength and courage to carry love forward into the world. To me, this is how this birth narrative stays relevant to so many of us here in the 21st century. And it remains real in those ways in which we connect with others who also feel this stirring in their inner beings to make a difference in the world. I shared a video of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu sharing about joy in this often joyless world. I loved this particular quote of Tutu's:
"As an old man, I can say this again.
Start where you are and realise you are not meant on your own to resolve all of these massive problems.
My heart leaps with joy at discovering the number of people who say "we want to make a better world".
And you will be surprised at how it can get to be catching.
Do what you can, where you can."
Our call is to nurture and care for this Love born in our hearts and make a home for Love wherever we are. Let us celebrate that Christmas this year.