Imagining Christmas

What a strange and difficult Christmas this has been! Perhaps most difficult of all is being separated from many of those we love, with whom we normally would gather this year. As the pandemic rages on, we are left to connect with loved ones via phone, Zoom, window visits, or socially distanced outdoor get-togethers. As the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” reminds us, this year we may only be able to be with loved ones in our dreams – our imaginations.

To refresh your memory of the ancient story that holds us all enthrall this time of year, read Luke 1:2-55; 2:1-20. As you reflect on the Christmas readings from Luke’s gospel, I invite you to use your imagination to call to mind and into your heart some of the people who have been important to you, and who may or may not be with you right now.  As you do that, you’ll be guided by several of the characters you’ve met in this ancient story.

First, the Angel Gabriel who invites Mary to do the impossible and assures her that she has all she needs to be able to do it.  Who in your life has seen something in you that you had never seen in yourself and believed in you and encouraged you?  Who had faith in you when you might have lost faith in yourself?  Picture that person now.

Next comes Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, in whom Mary confides.  If ever Mary needed a friend who would stand by her no matter what, it was now.  Who in your life has been the kind of friend who stands by you no matter what?  Who has been a companion in the ups and downs of life and supported you even if they don’t completely understand your situation? Imagine them sitting with you right now.

Sometime later we meet shepherds guarding their flocks in the night.  As shepherds they’re trained to pay attention to even the most subtle movement around them.  No wonder they have the ability to recognize that the celestial host as something more than a meteor shower.  Their keen senses help them to properly discern the message and prompt them to follow the instructions that lead them to behold the truly wonderful sight of a baby who is filled with promise.  Who in your life has served as a trusted guide because they’re firmly grounded in the here and now, possessing the gift of discernment, understanding the true meaning of any given event?  How are they present right now?

At the stable we meet Joseph.  He doesn’t say a whole lot, but he is a powerful presence.  He’s the one who has charted the course from home to Bethlehem and provided for and watched over the family every step of the way.  Even though a stable isn’t the optimal setting in which to bring a child into the world, it is reasonably sheltered.  Who has quietly watched out for and sheltered you? Make a space in your heart and mind for them.

Finally, Mary.  We meet her at the beginning of the story and again at the end as she’s now done an extraordinary thing under the most ordinary circumstances.  She has faithfully carried the divine spark of light, hope, peace, joy, and love, and successfully brought it into this messy world in the form of a child.  In our last glimpse of her she finally has a chance to rest, and we leave her treasuring the experience and pondering what it all might mean.

What are you treasuring and pondering?  What is stirring in you?  What form does the Light you carry in this world take?

As you hold all of those who came to mind, along with whatever is stirring within you tonight, I invite you take a moment light a candle and remember that even in this dark time the Light of Christ has come again.