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2014 Christmas Day Message

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Christmas: Celebrating God’s coming into this world by being like Mary, a faith-full model of human participation

A Lectio Divina exercise in Luke 1:26-38.

Go to your place of prayer. Become quiet and still before God. Ask God to speak to you. Then slowly and prayerfully read the set passage, allowing the text to ‘speak’ to you… any word, phrase, sentence, image, thought, etc, that you are drawn to, or that gets your attention. Then dwell on that thought, text, image, etc. Meditate on it, and use it to prayerfully interact with God. Then record your prayer-meditation when you finished.

Two clear thoughts came to me in my lectio – more accurately, God spoke to me:

  • The astonishing announcement and reality of God coming into this world: God entered our world by becoming a human being, coming to us in flesh and blood… to save us! I was struck by the various words and titles Gabriel used to describe God entering our world (from “child” to “Son of God”; how many can you find?) – also the express purpose of God’s coming. The more I thought and prayed about it, the more amazed I was at this announcement to Mary – and it’s mysterious meaning – the reality of God actually entering our pain-filled world, becoming one of us, in order to save us, to save creation gone terribly wrong. It makes me worship God.
  • And even more astonishing (in some ways) was Mary’s response – the model of faith-full participation in this great mystery of God: God enters our world by participating in our humanity, inviting us to responsively participate in his divinity – his presence, plan and purpose – to make it a living saving reality. Mary responded with courage and faith, making herself available, only asking, ‘”how will this be, since I’m a virgin?” The answer came, “the Holy Spirit will do it in and through you… for nothing is impossible with God.” She simply responded: “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” God continues to enter our world through YOU and me, as “Christ is formed in us”, working through us, by his Spirit (Gal 4:19). Will you make your body, your being, available to God, so God can come into our world? The choice is yours. God is waiting… he needs your consent. The powerful poem below moved me deeply… read it carefully and prayerfully, and make your response to God.

By Denise Levertov (Quoted in William Barry, A Friendship like No Other, pp. 114-116)

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
Fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astonishing ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then brings to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

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