In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Work of Christmas

A reflection on the readings for Christmas 1: Luke 2:41-52 by the Rev. Margaret Rose    
By the time Christmas 1 rolls around, I confess that I am ready for something new.

 This year, especially, at least on the East Coast of the US, it was a year of trying to make sense of all that has happened, of trying to see where our faith fits, where God engages, and where the incarnation makes sense.  Over the email airwaves there were multitudes of sermons about Hurricane Sandy and most especially about the killings at Sandy Hook School in Newtown Connecticut.  Where was God?  How could God let this happen?  All the questions which return  to us in the face of evil or tragedy or the incomprehensibly destruction of too many lives.  There were wonderful reflections from across the religious spectrum.   And one of the best came from Maureen Dowd in an  editorial in the New York Times on December 26.   ( You can find it on line, called Why, God?)    A priest friend of hers suggested that the meaning of the incarnation really has to do with human beings’  call to be love’s presence in the world.  That is who Jesus was and that is who we are called to be.  My own thoughts on Christmas Eve were similar.  That is, that in the face of life’s joys and sufferings, good and evil, what we have is the promise of God’s presence with us—Emmanuelle.  It is not a zapper God who fixes things, or who holds the puppet strings of the world, or who rewards us when we are “good” or punishes us when we are bad.  God is a god of presence.  And as the priest said, often experienced through other people.   God’s promise is “I will be with you, even to the end of time.”   

Often we know this and have glimpses of that promise, especially  when we are most in need, when there is only God to cling to.  And  those who reach out to us  in our circle of love and community.  Or even strangers as has been the case this year with Sandy and Newtown.   
My wish for something new was really a desire to move out of my thoughts,out of trying to make sense of everything, away from words or even the  deep spiritual work that is this season.  I am ready to get back to the routine, I suppose, back to the work of everyday.  In fact to the business that the incarnation calls us toward.  

In Luke’s  Gospel we have the wonderful story of Mary and Joseph heading to Jerusalem for the Passover. Upon their return,  traveling with many from Nazareth, Mary and Joseph  lose Jesus in the  crowd and discover that he has stayed behind. They go back to the city and find him  teaching in the temple.  Luke’s version has Jesus say that he must be in his father’s house.  Others, and the one I remember from childhood,  was Jesus replying to his parents,  “Don’t you know I must be  about my Father’s business.”   Such a response would be no surprise to any parent of an adolescent today.  And I certainly wonder how Joseph must have felt.  But for us perhaps it is the message of what is next. 

 As I think about this text assigned for Christmas 1, it seems that this is the “something new”.   It is time now to get back to business.  Not  perhaps the routine of life, but rather the business that God has called us to as we live into the reality of the Incarnation, of God with us.   It is, as Dr.  Howard Thurman wrote in his familiar poem which I leave with you as the reflection for this Sunday: 

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

May we look with hope toward 2013 with God ‘s promise of Emmanuelle and the work of Christmas before us.  

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