by Rev. Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber

There is something about this year that has helped me insert myself into the Jesus Birth Narrative.  I’m bonding with Mary this year.  I have been taking time for imaginative prayer and really putting myself in the scene with Mother Mary.  There are 2 moments that have really captured my imagination, one at the end of their journey and one shortly after the birth.   

I hope you’ve already seen our Christmas Pageant for this year.  Just like everything else in 2020, it’s different than it has been in the past.  And there is this moment, this precious moment, that shook me to my toes: Mary and Joseph were REAL people in a REAL relationship.  Joseph has gone out to look for a place to stay, and comes back to tell Mary what he’s found.  And we see her reacting to his words, and him reacting to her body language.  And they touch foreheads, and they have this moment with one another that says so much:  

You’ve GOT to be kidding me!

I’ve got to laugh or else I will cry…

If this is what our lives are going to be, I am so glad that you are by my side.  

The both/and’s of that moment are profound.  It would be easy to land clearly on one side or the other of this swirl of emotions:   Mary could have fallen into Joseph’s arms with a swoon, “Oh Thank God you found somewhere for us to stay.” Or she could have kicked him in the shins, “I am about to burst with child, away from my family and the midwives, and you want me to sleep in a barn in the animal poo???”

But in this moment in our St. Luke’s 2020 Pageant, we seek Mary and Joseph holding ALL these things in their hearts.  Holding all the different emotions.  And knowing whatever happens, they are in it together, and God is in the midst of it with them, and that is enough.

The second moment comes a day or two later.  It is when Mary is a brand new mother in the stable, “pondering all these things in her heart.”  And what I’m coming to understand is how deeply what Mary gets isn’t exactly what Mary wanted.

She was going to bear God’s son!  A mighty overthrower of the powerful!

And yet, here she sits,  surrounded not by midwives and family, but by livestock.

She was going to bear God’s son!  A mighty overthrower of the powerful!

And yet, here she sits, the first greeting coming not from dignitaries, but by stinky shepherds.

She was going to bear God’s son!  A mighty overthrower of the powerful!

And yet, here she sits, heart broken open realizing the pain and suffering her newborn will endure.

Mary’s life was not what she had hoped for.   God’s call on Mary’s life did not lead her into comfort and simplicity of life. And yet, she found a way to give thanks for the life she actually had.  

This year, none of us are having the Christmases we had hoped for.  We are not surrounded by all the people we love.   We remember the deaths that have been, and know there are more to come.

And yet, even in the midst of this Christmas that is not all we hoped for,  we can give thanks. We can touch our foreheads to our own bathroom mirror and say 

You’ve GOT to be kidding me!

I have to laugh or else I will cry…

If this is what my life is going to be, I am so glad that Jesus is by my side.  

This Christmas. It’s not the best ever.   And that’s OK. Jesus didn’t come into the world to give us everything we want, or to fix all our problems, or to make us wealthy and give us pain-free living.   Jesus came into this world to reconcile God and humanity so that we could touch, forehead to forehead and say yes, Yes to the life that is.  And to say thank you God, Emmanuel for being-with me in my imperfect yet holy life. 


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