God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.
~ Dag Hammarskjold
What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time and in my culture?
If you were raised Christian, you might have some memories, like me, of unpacking and creating the nativity scene in your home during the Advent season. We had a few of them at my house: the one my parents brought back from their visit to Jerusalem, the ones my brother and I made from uncooked macaroni noodles in Sunday School, and the teeny-tiny one with a fake tree and baby Jesus that were irresistible toys for the cats. “Has anyone seen the baby Jesus?” my Mom would question, her head poking under the chairs and shelves, hoping to repair the fragmented story and invite its anticipated outcome.
The nativity pieces from Jerusalem were my favorite. In addition to the usual suspects, there were animals, shepherds, wise men and camels. My Mom would let me create the scene, reminding me that the three kings arrived later and therefore, shouldn’t be in the stable with Mary and Joseph, but rather en route. Years later, in the home of my spiritual director, I stood dazzled and mesmerized by her nativity, an annual original creation, that covered her entire dining table. Every animal figurine you can (and can’t) imagine – scorpions, dolphins, emus and dogs, serpents, chickens, and unicorns – were making their way across the loooooooong dining table to see the new baby. Seeing the scene depicted in this way, allowed me to expand its scope. In this overtly mythic and more cosmic unfolding, I could find myself in new facets of the story.
It’s from this place this year, I’ve been falling in love again with the Christmas story. Whether or not you celebrate this holiday, I encourage you to consider and live the metaphors alive this week….
You are on a journey, to be counted with everyone else, in the census. Given the circumstances, and putting it plainly, this journey might sort of suck. And there’s this Angel thing. A sign, a dream, a moment of serendipity or surprise that suggested there is something very important on your horizon. What is it? It’s in you and it’s beyond you…and it’s coming!!! And, with all this anticipation, and with all this uncertainty, you keep walking toward a new place; a very simple, earthy space. And in that spot, inconvenient and unfamiliar, but supported by the vision that is in you and beyond you, you birth a spark of Divinity. What, dear friends, is in your manger?
Peace, blessings and love to you this season
and in the dawn of a new year.