Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Advent 4 Thursday/ Christmas Eve: A Familiar Story

The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

The O Antiphons, in reverse order, were:

O Emmanuel!        (God-With-Us)      
O Rex Gentium!    (King of all Nations)
O Oriens!               (Morning Star)

O Clavis David!     (Key of David)
O Radix Jesse!       (Root of Jesse)
O Adonai!              (Lord)
O Sapientia!           (Wisdom)

The first letters of the Latin titles form an acrostic "Ero Cras!":

"Tomorrow I will be there!"

Our scripture passage this evening is Luke 2:1-14, in the New Revised Standard Version.

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. 10 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: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,  the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

You can click here for Lectio Divina suggestions, and return for the meditation and prayer.


Angel by Gary Blythe, in "This is the Star," by Joyce Dunbar and Gary Blythe
It is such a familiar story. And we all can conjure up the scene: the stable, the hay, the cow standing nearby, the father bending near, the mother holding her precious baby... who seems to be glowing, somehow! That's because, we know, this child is special: This is Jesus, the Son of God!

We can see it. We HAVE seen it!

And yet... it is a strange story, isn't it?

What does that mean, all the world should be registered? It means the Roman Empire is in charge, and it doesn't matter that your wife is 39 weeks pregnant. She will have to walk or ride a donkey 70 miles or so, because Caesar wants to make sure he has you on the tax roles.

What do you mean, there is no room for you? This is your hometown! Supposedly. Shouldn't being descended from King David make you at least a low-level celebrity of some kind? Can't you maybe stay in a palace somewhere? Evidently not. Forty generations after he lived, David's descendants might well have been, well, everybody.

It is so familiar, and so picturesque. But so unfamiliar, too, this couple with names-- Yosef and Maryam, is how they would have pronounced them-- names that might well have gotten them on a no-fly list, if their story had unfolded in 2015. 

The story is as familiar as powerlessness. As familiar as pain, of labor, and birth. As familiar as being on your own, without your mother near, for the first time in your life, and facing... who knew what? This story is as familiar as not having a space to call your own, even when you are at your most vulnerable. 

Why is the story told this way? What are we supposed to learn from it? What does it tell us about God? 

Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols, performed by the Arizona Girlchoir


Lord, Christ, born as a vulnerable baby and yet our Prince of Peace, teach us to welcome you into our hearts, and to live your life of oneness with our Abba God. We pray in your holy name. Amen.

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