Readings for the Day:
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At some point when I was in high school and was well established as a lector at church, I got asked to read for the Christmas Day service. This had nothing to do with merit or anything. It had purely to do with they needed some crazy or willing enough to do it, and I was happy to oblige.
The lead up to Christmas has always been difficult for me. I grew up as a choir boy in an Episcopal school from my elementary to my middle school years. Lessons and Carols was the big production of the school year, and every year we started practicing for it sooner and sooner until we really only had actually music class lessons for a few weeks at the start of school before we began preparing. After a while, I became burned out on Christmas. I still am in many ways.
Yet being there for that Christmas Day service, with just a handful of people and without the fanfare and hullabaloo, I found peace. I found God. It was an experience that was so powerful, that my family obliged in making Christmas Day service a family tradition. This service has held a warm place in my heart. It still does really.
Mary’s experience at the Nativity would have been even more of an emotional roller coaster. The lead up to Jesus’ birth wouldn’t have been easy for her. She and Joseph travelled to their ancestral home, the City of David, but it wasn’t their actual home. They had to travel all the way from one side of the country to another in an era without cars. All the while, Mary was very pregnant.
Plus, they didn’t know anyone in Bethlehem. Not only that, but there was no room for them in any sort of inn/hotel establishment. With nothing else, they would have done what many in their day would have in such a situation. They stayed in a cave.
There likely would have been other people there, with their own livestock to boot. Luke’s depiction of Jesus being laid in the manger comes from the fact that the only place Mary likely could get any privacy while giving birth would have been with the animals, and the manger or feeding trough would have been the best place, if only, to lay the newborn Jesus.
This would have been a difficult experience. It would not have been calm, quiet, bright, or even silent as the well-beloved hymn states. It would have been stressful, chaotic, and extremely unsanitary by modern standards.
Yet in this chaos, angels announce the Christ Child’s birth to shepherds in the field. They made their way to see Jesus. They told Mary of what they had heard. We hear in this moment that Mary “treasured” their words “in her heart.”
In the midst of chaos, frustration, and confusion, Mary found that moment of peace to experience God. In the aftermath of her birth, she finally experience that calm and brightness we hear in the old hymn.
I hope on this day without the same fanfare of the previous Eve that you find something similar. I hope you find peace and calm at the end of the chaos. I hope you find that moment of silence where you too can experience God’s Glory in such a way that you will treasure this time in your heart.