Christmas Eve Reflection, December 24, 2019
I love going to the website of the Hubble Space Telescope to look at the magnificence of the universe beyond what our eyes can see. The immensity of the whole of creation is truly mind-blowing as I gaze at pictures of spiral galaxies, clouds on Uranus, Bubble, Eagle and Monkey Head Nebulas, quasars, black holes, and the electric lightshows of supernovas. The God of the universe has immense power to create and recreate.
When God chose to build a closer, more intimate connection with humanity, God could have come to earth with spectacular might, riding on the tail of comet with celestial fireworks, exploding stars and a bombastic, all-encompassing dominance that would have brought the bravest among us to our knees. We could have been wowed, awed and overpowered into submission.
But that is not the way our God chooses to arrive; God comes
• not in radical power, but instead, in relationship;
• not in hubris, but, in humility,
• not in might, but in meekness,
• not in authority, but in partnership.
Poet Denise Levertov writing of the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, describes this surprising encounter:
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
This is an image of the greatest contrast we can imagine. The God whose unimaginable power spans galaxies yet unseen by our advanced science, asking an unwed teenage girl—a piece of property in her culture—for consent, for participation, for a relationship with the living God of the universe.
God not only wants a relationship with her, but also asks for her to bring to birth God’s love for the world—embodied in a human person. Everything we need to know about the character of God is revealed in this small sliver of the nativity story.
God could come into your life with power and might, but instead, God hovers, like an angel waiting in the wings of your life, lingering patiently, hopefully, lovingly, asking for consent, seeking your participation, desiring a relationship you. Through you, God brings forth God’s love, embodied in you, a Christ-like person in the world. The profound joy of celebrating Christmas every year, is to say “yes” to God to again and again.
Perhaps this year, our “yes” is to give our consent to God in an area of our heart that has been previously closed off, an area of our life where we have said, “there is no place in the inn,” for God certainly cannot love, forgive or help this mess.
There is nothing ideal about being born in a forlorn stable and using a manger for a crib. But Jesus was born among the beasts so that we might know God can redeem that which is most beastly in ourselves, and that there is nothing to hide from God. Surely the dung of our lives can be turned into something new by the God who can make the Milky Way out of stardust and hydrogen gas!
Our God invites you and waits lovingly for you to say, “yes,” to give your consent with your whole being—with your whole heart and soul and mind and strength.
With Mary, tonight, we join God’s work of redemption, saying, "yes" to embodying Christ-like love and hope for the world!
Image: Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898
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