Christmas: Week One
After weeks of patient expectation, now we celebrate with boisterous joy and wide-eyed amazement the actual arrival of the "Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." Something utterly glorious! But, surprisingly, he arrives in virtual obscurity: born a helpless infant to an unattended peasant girl in a crude cowshed unbeknown to all but a handful of scruffy strings Like those lowly shepherds, their darkness suddenly dispelled by an ensemble of angels, we are given to know this almost hidden glory and to revel in this good news of great joy.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise the Lord from the earth. Glory to you, Lord God, in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace among those whom you favor. Amen.
Like the shepherds who hurried to Bethlehem, I want to see this day with spiritual eyes the amazing thing that has taken place in history, which you, O Lord, have made known to us.
Inviting God's Presence
Let your great light shine on me today and on all who walk in darkness. Amen.
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace: by your zeal may you establish your throne with justice and righteousness and bring about endless peace on the earth. Amen.
Daily Scripture Reading: Good News of Great Joy
Monday, December 28: Hebrews 1:1-4
The opening verses of Hebrews put the whole business in grand perspective. In all of history, God has spoken to us most decisively and dramatically "by a Son." The one who uttered the cosmos into being, who sustains it now by his powerful word, who is destined to inherit it when remade, this one entered the very creation to reflect God's glory to humanity and to rescue us from our sin and its consequences. This is who was born in that barn.
Tuesday, December 29: Luke 2:1-20
Luke tells the story. He sets it in political and geographical context. He explains how Joseph and Mary came to be in the crowded village. Almost matter-of-factly he reports the birth and the use of a feed trough for a cradle. But the real drama takes place in the nearby grazing fields. Shepherds were not the most reputable of folk, so it was to those at the social margin that the angel appears in luminous glory. Terrified at first, they hear the announcement of "good news of great joy" and then the chorus of angelic chanting. With these herdsmen God makes the first move, one of sheer grace; the next move is theirs. And they make it! Wanting more of God they go to find the baby. Thus they become the first witnesses, in both senses of the word. Oh, the joy they experienced as they returned to their fields! What do you make of the way God orchestrates this whole story? Where do you find yourself in it? Has God made a move toward you of late that invites your response? Do you want to see more?
Wednesday, December 30: Psalm 148
If you are filled with fresh wonder, Psalm 148 will help you join with all creation in celebration and praise. Join the psalmist in glorifying God but with this paradox in mind: God's glory was once wrapped in bands of cloth and laid on the straw of a feed box. As you call on the heavens to praise him, remember the choir of angels over Bethlehem. As you call on the earth to praise him, remember the animals around the crib, the shepherds in the field and the Magi bearing their gifts. Praise God for raising up a horn - a deliverer - for us all (see Lk 1:69).
Thursday, December 31: Matthew 2:13-18
Matthew gives the grim account of the holy innocents, the male babies in Bethlehem two years and younger who were slaughtered on the orders of King Herod, a ruler ruthless in eliminating any threat to his power. During this time of festivity it is useful to meditate on this brutal act of infanticide and the devastation it brought to so many families. The scene offsets our sentimental leanings. The darkness into which Christ came is no mere metaphor. Nor is the darkness of our time. then again, the light of Christ is no mere metaphor either! Even as you rejoice in the light, continue to intercede for the evil-darkened world of our day.
Friday, January 1: Luke 2:21-40
Luke reports the circumcision and naming of Jesus on the eighth day as the law required (Lev 12:2-7). The name Jesus, given by the angel, is the Greek equivalent of Joshua, "God saves." Luke next recounts the visit to Jerusalem forty days after the birth for the purpose of Mary's purification and Jesus' presentation in the temple, again as the law required (Ex 22:29; Num 3:13). They encounter two elderly prophets, Simeon and Anna. Both are devout and attuned to the Holy Spirit. They exemplify those who wait and watch for the coming of the Lord. Once again God orchestrates a remarkable encouragement for the young couple, yet Simeon's blessing is laced with the ominous. Simeon's canticle is prayed by millions each night as part of compline prayer; we entrust ourselves to God before sleep with a sense of security and contentment, for we too have seen the Messiah, the Lord's salvation.
From Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross