38 years old is the book. Amazing isn’t it in this throw away society that something has endured and lasted through childhood, multiple uses in ministry from churches to streets to outreaches…to quiet nights on Christmas Eve with my own children. A pop up book back when Hallmark published such things, given to me by my Nan and Granddad to commemorate my first Christmas a scants 4ish months since birth, and 2ish months since the Christening into the Anglican tradition, within the Roman Catholic School gym (shamrock backboard and all).
Yet it is the story that endures and matters. Many argue the historicity of it. Did it actually happen? Was their a Virgin birth? Did it happen on Christmas Day? What about the Pagan Solstice?
Yet in simply sitting with my family this Christmas eve, no spiritual home to say, and reading the story of the family travelling at the darkest time of year seeking shelter. Dark times? The Solstice tells us this is the darkest time of year. The extra burden wrought by taxes that do not take not even affordability, but survival into account (no comment to Carbon Tax I promise)…that was the oppression of the Roman Empire where Joseph and Mary, and their people were viewed as a number, as commodities (ringing any familiarity yet?) to be used and abused.
Mary steps out of the commodification of her gender within her oppression by Rome and Religious Israel, to claim her yes in power to the Holy Mystery to bear his child. Where did this child come from? Some say a Virgin birth, some say another oppression by a Roman soldier using his property, much like David used Bathsheba, what we today call Rape, or a genocidal practice…yet Mary was the one asked whether or not she would keep it, would choose life in herself and for her baby and was blessed.
Yet that was not the end of the story, for Joseph also had to choose life. He had to choose to keep his betrothed (purchased) property and the child that was not his. He had 3 options, become the town joke by choosing and create their own outcast ways, cast Mary outside the city gates like other sex trafficked women to her death with child, or have her stoned to death.
Mary’s yes resounded to a mystical moment for Joseph to choose his own yes.
Yet this is not the end of the mysticism of the story as societal constructs of oppression are thrown off. For we are in the midst of the 12 days of Christmas. Yes it is more than a song, and I am sure the Google can reveal the Christian imagery revealed in the lyrics, but it is the 12 days that high liturgical churches embrace as a way of bringing the two nativities together.
For Luke gives us the call out to the other cast outs and oppressed imaged by the shepherds to come to the birth. Yet in Matthew, the universal Love that is the Holy Mystery, is told of the Magi who use means of magic, astrology and astronomy to track this effect in the sky of a bright light in the darkness to come and show love. For the gifts brought would definitely be of benefit 30 years on when Jesus would leave being a general labourer and set forth to live transformational love in the world.
Yet it is the journey of the Magi, and their decision to not let Herod know what they knew about the source, Love incarnate in the manger, this is the source for the festival time Christendom finds themselves in now. The 12 Days of Christmas between the birth and the arrival of the Magi…or between the Protestant-Catholic Christmas and the Orthodox Christmas..
The universal story of these 12 days resonates outward everywhere, for it is not about creeds or bibles or buildings…it is something more incarnate.
These 12 days it is about the spiritual journey to the centre. It is about the journey home. For it is the Magi journeying into love, and then out of love and letting that light live to transform the world.
As I read the pop up book this year to my children, these are the thoughts that came out of my heart. The journey of love has not changed for anyone in our household. The journey into and out of love and letting it shine, is a moment by moment occurrence for each of us.The symbolism of the rite and song are not lost either as we continue the journey to home.
So in these 12 days, and beyond, what is your choice of love and home mean to you?