What a paradox that the original setting of our romantic Christmas narrative is today in such violence and turmoil. But life for Palestinians at the time under rule of the Roman Empire may have been similarly violent and tumultuous. Young Joseph, teenager Mary and the newborn were threatened from the beginning, having been warned to take a detour home through Egypt.
And weren’t the Wise Men really Herod’s spies, an identity lost in the familiar tableaux of characters costumed in bathrobes and Turkish towels? The whole situation surrounding Christ’s birth was unpredictable, unstable (pardon the pun), dangerous and fraught with confusion and insecurity.
Imagine a young unmarried couple, obviously pregnant, travelling in a foreign territory. Did Mary and Joseph ever get married? Remember, they weren’t married when Jesus was born: impropriety in any culture. Hardly a lovely watercolor Christmas Card painting.
Do you think God chose to enter human life in such a tenuous setting, or did it just happen? It is incredible that the whole story ever made it out of the Bethlehem stable! It must have been those loud-singing angels and their “Glorias.”
What a miraculous story that the Word became flesh, and then the flesh spread the Word, way beyond the starting point. Epiphany (or “showing” from the Greek) is an invitation to appreciate how the fragile Good News has been communicated from obscurity to street language of the world. But are we in danger of losing the meaning of the familiar story as it has been co-opted by for-profit business interests?
When was the last time you told someone about how God came into your life? Who is Jesus for you? What opportunities exist for your showing the Light in circumstances of darkness?
Epiphany (Orthodox Christmas) is the season of light, as we experience the gradual lengthening of the sun’s rays. As a church set on a hill, how will St. Patrick’s
creatively reflect Light to our neighborhood and the surrounding area? Certainly our many outreach ministries are already instruments of Light. And God may bring to birth even more miraculous opportunities for each of us and our congregation to show forth God’s radical Love. Don’t underestimate the potential of humble beginnings under questionable circumstances.