Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 23 December 2012
Micah 5:1-4a; Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
Christmas reminds us that God is at work in the most unlikely places. Bethlehem, birthplace of David and of Jesus, had nothing to recommend it to the halls of power. But God chose it anyway. Elizabeth and Mary are just women in a patriarchal society, and yet they are the first to celebrate ‘God-with-us’ in a new and surprising way.
The psalm calls upon God, the shepherd of Israel, to come forth from the most holy place in power in order to visit God’s people with salvation. Who could have guessed what this would look like? The ‘Visitation’ isn’t a story of military might or earth-shattering displays of power. It is the story of the joy of two pregnant women in each other’s company. For both women, the child forming within them is gift; the one, by human standards, given too soon, the other given too late, but both given in God’s perfect time.
Life within Elizabeth responds to life within Mary with the thrill of recognition that God is present in the womb of this peasant girl. The mystery of the incarnation is the wonder that God is truly present in the ordinariness of everyday human existence, in the tiny life taking shape in the darkness of the womb, in the baby who cries and suckles and sleeps, in the child who wonders, in the adult who loves and laughs, who lives and dies. God’s will is done, the writer to the Hebrews reminds us, not through religious activities like sacrifice, but in the embodied life of one who lives faithfully. This is true of Jesus; it is also our calling.
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of God’s heaven.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still, the dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.