At last – stories that sound like Christmas! Stories with angels, babies announced, mysterious messages, the humble yes – the elements of the story we know. (RCL Luke 1:26-38)
Who among us has not meditated on the Christmas story from the perspective of Mary. Imagined, remembered, participated in the alarm, the surprise of the appearance of the angel. And tried to hear the words “Do not be afraid.” and trust in them in our own moments of fear and apprehension. How often have we sat with the unbelievable truth that we are called upon to participate in God’s plan for the world, have heard with disbelief and desire that we are favoured and practiced saying “yes”.
For good reason artists love this moment in the Christmas story, this moment, which is arguably the beginning of the Christmas story as we know it. Without the “yes” of Mary there might have been no Christ child. Or at the very least in would have been a different story. The “yes” of Mary we would all aspire to.
But what about this fragment of the King David story? Not even a particularly good bit of his story! We have king David being told what he cannot do, what is not wanted from him. Not a high point in his life surely. He has done so well, come from a mere shepherd boy to a king successful in battle and kingdom building. So of course he wants to build a grand house for his God as well. And yet this God, who is so clearly on his side, says “no thank you.”
And yet it is the kindest, most affirming “no”. “No, I do not want you to build me a house, but here are all the things I have given you and will give to you in eternity, to your house over all of time.” It is a no that is about life and not about the withdrawal of approval or hope. If “yes” is sometimes a yes to more than we could dream, then a “no” can be surprisingly about life and a plan bigger than the one we have knowledge of. In God yes and no can both be about life and life abundant.
Ultimately Christmas is about God giving birth to humanity in all love and hope and our giving birth to God in obedience and hope. To allow ourselves to be pregnant with the Christmas story is an act of hope. Of hope in a world that has plenty of reason to be despairing or distracted. To attend to the story of Christmas, to believe the story of Christmas, to tell the story of Christmas is an act of hope. And even more we are to become part of the story of Christmas, agents of hope, messengers of good news.
This year has been a hard and harrowing year for many. It has also been a year of amazing and inspiring examples of great love and courage and compassion, of creativity and perseverance as we have found ways of ministering to one another even while remaining physically more distant that we would have wanted. Despite great financial insecurity for many we have dug deep and kept vital services going and fed an increased number of folk who have not been able to provide for themselves.
Maybe at this time of year we might pause and reflect on how many ways small and large that we and our neighbours have been giving birth to God in our time and place – in our relationships with each other, with our work (paid and unpaid), with our decisions as consumers and the decision to consume less, with our choices as investors, and in our prayers for the world. Maybe most of all it is our willingness to keep attending to each other, to keep bearing witness to the suffering of grief and to the celebrating of each small blessing, so that we continue humbly and hopefully to be the Body of Christ in our neighbourhood
For as the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time. When the Son of God is begotten in us. “ [Meister Eckhart, 1260 – 1328]
Even so, come Lord Jesus Christ and be born through us.