A Blessed Christmas Eve to you all, dear friends!!
This holy season raises lots of emotions for me and, I trust, for all of us! We are delighted by the twinkling lights, the beautiful music, all the festivities with family and friends; yet, if we’re not careful, we can so easily miss the message of the holiday. Now, that may seem a funny thing to write to a bunch of active church people but we all know it’s true. In fact, maybe it takes even more work for us since we are so familiar with the words of liturgy and the stories from scripture that we can move through a church service almost without thought. To be perfectly transparent, I am ashamed to admit that I can say the Lord’s Prayer without missing a word while mentally planning the rest of my day. It takes effort to be intentional and focused.
While pondering the resolutions that we’ve been discussing, their relationship to Christmas jumped out at me. Just look at our Nativity sets. See Mary crouching by the manger exhausted after giving birth to the tiny babe sleeping in the straw. Joseph looks on – I’m guessing a bit overwhelmed from their tiring travels over dusty roads, finding no room at any of the local hotels, and feeling the weight of responsibility of a new father. And the shepherds arrive – these men who are considered unclean by society, probably a bit smelly but full of wonder at the message of the angels proclaimed from the heavens while they waited with their flocks in the fields. These simple folk are the same folk that all of our resolutions are meant to protect: Mary, who could have been a victim of gender violence as an unwed mother; Joseph an immigrant from another city; and shepherds, the marginalized and disenfranchised of Jewish society. But let’s not forget the most important character in the Nativity! There’s Jesus…Emmanuel…God with us – God who took on our humanity so that all could know God’s love!!
It is because of this great love that the resolutions we share each week have significance! It is because God is, indeed, with us that we are able to extend this love to all. This week, instead of presenting a new resolution, let’s take the opportunity to look with new eyes at those figures around the manger and try to see who they are in our neighborhoods and communities. Let us be careful to be truly present so that we don’t miss this holy message. And let us take to heart these words from Teresa of Avilla:
has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s
compassion to the world.
Yours are the feet with which Christ is
to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which Christ is
to bless all people now.
~Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council