Friday, December 24, 2021

Katie Snipes Lancaster

The Nativity
Luke 2:16–19 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying, and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Reflection on the Nativity
The “they” in this passage is the shepherds. What did they do? Follow the verbs. Hurry. Find. See. Spread. Return. Glorify. Praise. In that way, we notice that Christmas Eve is an active sacred moment, much less “all is calm, all is bright” than we might imagine. Our Christmas carols don’t often spotlight the verb “hurry,” wishing instead to stick with Mary’s more reflective and tranquil verb “pondering.” And I suppose, it begs the question, why would the shepherds need to hurry? Was Mary headed out soon? Did the manger make all visitors check out at 11 a.m. like the Holiday Inn? Did they discharge new mothers after 48 hours like Evanston Hospital?

I think their hurrying has more to do with the urgency and expectation of finding Mary and Joseph and the baby. It has more to do with the hope placed in their hearts by the angels. It has more to do with the spirit of God nudging them awake at midnight and urging them to head into town.

It’s been a while now since I’ve truly hurried. Especially unexpectedly. Hurrying when you’re late is one thing. Hurrying because of new news, and because of new Good News is another thing entirely. When was the last time you hurried? After hearing good news.

It seems like we live in a little bit of a “hurry up and wait” kind of world. If not that then our hurrying is more because of crisis, conflict, or trouble, less because of good news. I wonder what would awaken us to the kind of hurrying the shepherds did on that first Christmas Eve so many years ago. I wonder what would nudge us with haste toward the “Good news of great joy.” I suspect that for some of you, there will be a last rush on Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s the last minute meeting at work. Maybe it’s getting the house or meal ready for guests. Maybe it’s the pressure to get out the door for worship. Maybe our last minute preparations today help us to see ourselves as the shepherds: the ones to whom such good news has been given.

How do we pray on Christmas Eve? For me, the shepherds’ hurrying strangely gives me a little bit of peace as I pray this story. It gives me permission to let go of my expectations around Christmas Eve. Today does not need to be just one way or another. I can give up my expectation that all “must” be calm and bright. Maybe Christmas is disrupted this year. Maybe it is not as expected. Maybe it is more rushed than we’d like. Maybe it is upside down in ways you can’t quite articulate. The shepherds help us to see that this year’s Christmas Eve can hold the multiplicity of who we are. We are not just one way or another. We are not just merry. We are not just at peace. We are exactly the way we are this Christmas Eve, and it is here, in the multitude of our own complex, intricate, imperfect selves, that we might meet and see the incarnate one wrapped in clothes and laying in a manger.

Praying the Nativity
Let us be who we are
as we rush to the manger today.
Let us bring our whole selves
a myriad of emotions, desires and dreams.
Let us find our way within who we are
so that we might release all else
and seek you within.
Amen.