Posts Tagged ‘Shepherds’


Liturgically I am informed we are in the week of Joy in the journey to the creche. It is also the moment of the Winter Solstice, where we encroach on the shortest/darkest day of the year, after which light begins to grow once more. In each of the cultural-religious celebrations at this time of year it is about light and new life from the darkness.

Which is the struggle in joy.  Hope well, a few weeks back I wrestled with that. Peace-faith, though broken have wrestled through because of the story of a peasant girl. Now we enter joy in the gifts of the season. Perhaps the burden of 2017 finally reached the straw that broke my back. We are taught in seminary to look to prayer and the “Word” to find solace and answers.

And yes even some pablum like answers repeated as mantras of “God brings you to it, he will bring you through it.” Or “God gives you only that He can trust you can handle” or better chestnuts around suffering and being blessed twice fold after (bastardized out of the ancient story of Job).

Discernment for me goes deeper, and that is the challenge this Advent. For Joy is the story of the shepherds—the least of society, one step from the cast outs being the first told of the joy to come into the world:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[a]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

-Luke 2:8-20 (English Standard Version)

spong

A story over 2000 years old. Yet one that still rings with justice-political truth today. I knew this on Sunday in the Christmas Pageant at our church that re-told it with a Canadian twist. The movements of political oppression that caused movement, and economic injustices that lead to poverty. The parts my children and I played as the ranchers, a strong work force the backbone of an economy that can so easily be forgotten. My son through his adaptive technology being able to speak lines, my daughter over the course of her acting and caroling in the week finding her strong assertive voice to project what she knew to be true.

A hint of the inclusion the story echoed us to, 2000 years on should not be a “what a great time” but should simply be normative.

To struggling through brain fog for 4 days as I attempt to put words as the brain glitches, and tears flow. Pain released. Not joy. As Norad reminds us today, 3 days until sleigh launch. Yet is there joy? A hard thing to find even when getting to experience the season through the heart of children.

Then a simple image struck me as a television show ended. Star Trek Deep Space Nine Season 5, Episode 26 “Call to Arms” in which after 5 years and with the threat of invasion by the Dominion imminent, Sisko and the Federation must leave the station back in the hands of the Cardassians. The consummate villain, Gul Dukat (one who believes he is doing what is right—think a Herod, A Pilate, A Caiaphas if you are into Biblical allegory) stands amongst the technological carnage left behind and finds one thing left behind. A message from Sisko (who is also the Bajorans Emissary) to Dukat and the invaders stripping a galaxy of joy: His baseball.

joy

Dukat’s last words to Weyoun as he holds the baseball “A message, he will be back”.
I sit here a bit teary wanting the year 2017 in my rear-view mirror for something normalized if not better in 2018. On the Solstice, the darkness consumes, but rationally I know the light begins to grow again. It is what joy can be found in the now for life will be back.

We can so easily get in a rut of just seeing the negative or locking into our own paradigms. This week of Advent calls us to look outwards and inwards to what brings true Joy to your soul, community and world? #advent2017


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?