Christmas

Theology Mary Fatherly JosephI looked around for some information about this stunning image, which can be found on the cover of a volume called The Edinburgh Companion to the Bible and the Arts. Originally I saw it on Facebook with this explanation:

Here is an Icon brought to my attention by a colleague of mine.
It is an Icon of 15th century located in France.
Mary is inquiring the Torah and Joseph keeps Jesus in his arms.
It is a nativity that goes beyond many stereotypes. It speaks of tenderness with regard to Joseph and of theological skills concerning Mary.
A Nativity that appeals for an updating in our manger scene!
Therefore, merry Christmas. Beyond stereotypes!

9780748639335However, it is indeed a 15th century image, but not of the Virgin Mary reading the Torah, but rather she is reading the hours. The image is fittingly called the Nativity, the Virgin Reading the Besancon Book of Hours. Despite its initial explanation to me being more exotic, either way, it is a beautiful image to behold and pray with as we enter Christmas.

 

48420590_10216144873788277_1834312285091266560_nThis is another nativity image that caught my eye, something known as Isa ibn Maryam, meaning Jesus, son of Mary. In Islam, Mary is highly revered. Jesus is seen as a prophet, but not as God himself. A surprisingly small amount of people know or understand how Jesus and Mary are understood by our Muslim brothers and sisters. There are so many links about this that I am hard pressed to find the most accurate one to show you. My best advice is to go find a Muslim friend and talk to them about it, or visit a local mosque. If your church has any interfaith connections, this should not be hard to do. If your church does not have interfaith connections, this would be a great time to explore starting them!

Refugee-NativityAnd then this scene of Jesus born in a tent to refugees, as a reminder of the era in which we live. People traveling, not because they want to, but because they have to, and people not welcomed when they arrive. There are no shortage of reminders to our current environment when we pray with the Nativity.

Christmas is here. Christ, born in the lowliest of circumstances to people at the lowest rungs of what is known as acceptable society. If we do not use this time to reorient and refocus ourselves, we miss yet another moment when God calls out to us to pay attention.

Jesus came so that all might be one. Jesus said to love one another. Jesus entire story from birth to death to resurrection is an instruction in mercy, compassion, outreach, and hope.

When will we ever learn? How about today?

May your Christmas dawn in hope this year, and may you carry hope forth for others in the days to come.

Blessings to one and all! Peace on earth! Goodwill to all people! Jesus asks for it, it is up to us to do it. This year, may it be so.

 

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The Meaning of Christmas

linus-speechEvery December I watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  There is a nostalgic element to this; just hearing the music propels me back to childhood. I would have been eight years old when it first aired, and I can imagine watching our black and white TV, full of joy at the magic unfolding before me.

Today I love that on that bastion of secular values known as network television, Linus tells Charlie Brown about the meaning of Christmas. And he can quote Luke’s Gospel from memory! As I hear his voice, once again I am transported, only this time it is to an era long before my childhood. Suddenly, I am immersed in the world where Christ was born, and I am reminded once again of how God is found in the most unexpected places.

CrecheMany of us will go to mass on Christmas, where we will see a Nativity scene. We can stand before the Crèche, but we cannot stay there. Christ is always being born anew, and that means more than staring at the infant Jesus. Our Advent watching and waiting should have prepared us for more, but are we ready? Can we see Christ born today, in unexpected places? Can we let go of whatever blinds us to meeting Jesus in the unlikely? Can we find him by simply slowing down and being kind to one another, even if just for one day?

This Christmas may the Light of Christ our Savior illuminate our way, opening our eyes and hearts. May the light of Christ prompt us to bring Him into the world with our lives. May the sight of this tiny, vulnerable child, wrapped in swaddling clothes remind us of God’s unexpected presence– and our need to reach out and serve all in joy of the newborn savior’s name.