And Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
As we near Christmas, it may be hard to believe in the promise that the Christ child brings. Amidst the heart-numbing persistence of that shape-shifting COVID virus, when political hostility seems to turn our ideals of democracy into fantasy, as we look helplessly at pictures of tornado-crushed towns, the happy Christmas carols seem muted, the star in the sky peeks from behind clouds, and a baby’s cry can barely be heard.
But the music does live on, even if behind masks. We can find beauty, even while we’re staying safe. We’re reminded that “outdoors is safer,” and we enjoy the natural beauty of our national parks and California coast that we often take for granted. We benefit from technology that allows us to access resources and the arts, through virtual choirs, innovative museum tours, and rediscovered personal expressions such as gardening and crafts. May the songs of the angels fill our ears and our hearts this Christmas season.
And the star yet shines, even if we can’t see it so clearly through the clouds of fatigue. We now see the importance of caring for each other, of acknowledging mental and emotional health as well as physical health, of appreciating the people who care for us when we’re sick, deliver goods to our homes, and reinvent themselves and their professions in order to teach, preach, counsel, and diagnose on a remote basis. We no longer take family get-togethers for granted. And as we dare to peer into the darkness, we see more clearly the inequalities that were always in our world, yet not recognized. Our inability to dictate our future brings us new humility, which is a precursor to community and true faith. May we have eyes to see what has gone unseen, both the sin of broken systems but also the greater saving power of God.
And that little baby, crying in the cold night, yet lives. Even with the knowledge of 800,000 lives lost to COVID in this nation, we also know of the resilience that will bring us back, but with greater compassion and concern for all lives—young and old, black brown and all races, women and men, and those with health vulnerabilities. Let us remember that God chose the small, insignificant, occupied nation of Israel to bless with Jesus’ presence, a loving presence too great to be contained by any one people. And that presence came into the world as a helpless child, born far from home, destined to flee to find asylum in a foreign land. May we know the enormous potential contained in every life, even in the littlest of babies. And may we come alongside all mothers, fathers, and all who care for those who cannot care for themselves.
This Christmas week, I have been thinking how every problem does not evaporate at Jesus’ birth. In fact, I’ve been told that many a young mother is overtaken by fear when confronted with the awesome responsibility of raising her young miracle into adulthood. Is that what Mary pondered? Or did she remember the bold obedience she had when she sang the Magnificat? Did she rejoice that these strange shepherds came to confirm what the angel Gabriel told her? Did she have any idea what stresses and miracles and pain she would experience due to her divine and human child?
As we approach Christmas, and the end of the year, and as we continue to pray for an end to this pandemic, may we look beyond our desire for closure and find the new life that lays ahead.
Christmas is, of course, not the end, but just the beginning. But what a glorious beginning! I pray that the light of Christ’s star comes into your heart this Christmas, filling you with the sure knowledge that God keeps promises—promises of new life, of saving grace, of everlasting peace. Perhaps not today, but God’s will be done, soon and forevermore.
Walter Burghardt wrote:
You must be men and women of ceaseless hope, because only tomorrow can today’s human and Christian promise be realized . . . Every human act, every Christian act, is an act of hope. But that means you must be men and women of the present, you must live this moment— really live it, not just endure it—because this very moment, for all its imperfection and frustration, because of its imperfection and frustration, is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities, is pregnant with future, is pregnant with love, is pregnant with Christ.
May your Christmas be filled with the hope that only Christ can bring—and that no human can take away. And may we fill 2022 with acts of hope, and love, and obedience to our Lord. I give thanks to God for being able to act along with you.
In Christ’s love,