The stable has always intrigued me. Not the shepherds and wise men, so-called. Not Joseph and Mary. But the stable. The idea of it. The feel of it. The smell of it. The sounds within it. The earthiness and even vulgarity of such a setting for such a thing as we celebrate. I am taken with its fundamental humility. Holiness incarnate comes in a squealing child of questionable genetics born under unfortunate circumstance. God with us. God. With us. Deeply intimate with our humanity, exposure, vulnerability. Only a God such as this could have my allegiance—does have my allegiance.
Author Madeleine L’Engle refers to this strange occurrence in her book by the same title as “the Glorious Impossible.” Sprung from God’s holy imagination, human minds could not have conjured such a thing. It situates just beyond the limits of believability, beckoning our faith that this child holds the key to unlocking life’s great mysteries.
Once again Mary has reason to ponder these matters in her heart. As the story is told, you recall she did the same following Gabriel’s announcement; that is, she set to pondering. In the face of such an astonishing occurrence, pondering seems an appropriately humble posture. We can benefit from a lot more of it.
Among the things we might ponder includes the path this child will walk as he grows into adulthood. How it begins in humility and ends in humility. And in between those bookends, a revelation of love that was higher, wider, deeper than any humans had yet imagined. This love would prove larger than death and, looping back to this night’s wonderment, how appropriate that this love begins in birth.
Glory to God in the highest heaven! All praise and thanksgiving to the One who comes clothed only in humility. Amen.
Second Samuel 7 extols Yahweh’s choice of the family of David as the extraordinary vehicle for divine salvation. God now plans to do a new and unparalleled thing in the life of humankind. Mary’s song of wonder from Luke 1 serves as the psalm selection. It centers on her realization that human life will now never be the same. In the epistle reading, Paul rejoices that by the power of God the times are what they are. In the Gospel text, Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the “Son of God.” Overwhelmed by both the holiness and the enormity of the moment, Mary nonetheless consents to the will of God as brought by God’s messenger.
• Read 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16. Respond to the author’s question, “How shall we interpret good fortune or bad from the perspective of God’s good care for us?”
• Read Luke 1:47-55. How do you learn to embrace the mystery of holy time in the commonplace events of your day?
• Read Romans 16:25-27. How has God’s love shown through Jesus Christ proved to be an antidote to your fears?
• Read Luke 1:26-38. Where do you see the “lowly lifted up and the hungry filled with good things”? How can you participate in that gracious work of God? What fears can you name before God?
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