Nativity of our Lord; first Sunday after Christmas

& archive, Year C.

Lord Jesus Christ,
You see how bent over we are
Under the weight of the world’s habits.

Unburden us
Clear the path within our soul
Lift up our heads to see you
Our hearts to love you
And welcome your coming.

Nativity of our Lord; first Sunday after Christmas

“The annunciation is the story of ultimate surprise: God’s messenger breaks into the routine of the ordinary and the predictable, and announces the divine presence among us and within us.” (Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening, Cowley, 1992).

Of course, there are several annunciations in the Advent and Christmas stories, but each one is the “story of ultimate surprise.” And each time an angel arrives in the midst of the ordinary. So too, with the shepherds. They were doing night watch, that long, monotonous stretch of attentiveness in the dark silence as the world sleeps. If messengers carried letters or bundles of needful items, this was not the hour. It was the hour of vigil, of constant alertness for the odd wolf who might slink in amongst the sleeping flock unawares. It was the hour of passing the watch, from one shepherd to another. No one expected anything different; they had done this work for a lifetime.

Abruptly the sky shines! Brilliant light shatters the black night of the field! And in the center of this brighter-than-noon-sun invasion, a voice, an angel!!

“Do not be afraid;
for see–I am bringing you good news
of great joy
for all people.”

Startled into full wakefulness and shock, the shepherds now hear a birth announcement (for that is what the angel carries):

To you is born
this day
in the City of David
who is

The announcement includes directions:

This will be the sign for you:
you will find a child
wrapped in bands of cloth
lying in a manger.

Margaret Guenther says that sometimes she asks herself and the persons coming to her for spiritual direction, “What would you do if an angel were waiting in the back seat of your car, or in your office, or at home in your kitchen? You with a deadline to meet, or a spouse who is demanding a little space in your life, or a sick child . . . ?” We could add “. . . or Christmas Day services to plan, or Christmas gifts to give, or the sanctuary to decorate, or hospital visits to make,” for these become the routine and the ordinary at this time of the year.

The shepherds decide to leave the field and to “go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” They find the child and worship him.

The invitation here is to recognize and welcome the angelic messengers which invade our consciousness at this time of the year, and to allow their presence and message to lead us to the Christ-child. As we visit that elderly gentleman in the retirement home who remembers little except a childhood Christmas carol, and “Jesus loves me, this I know”, but who does not know what season it is, nor where he now lives, we are in the presence of an angel. For as we listen to this elderly saint sing his childhood carol and chorus, the light of his soul shines in his eyes and for a moment he connects. Like the glory of God which shines in the darkness of the shepherds’ field, God’s light shines in this man’s face. And so we are guided to Bethlehem once more.

Tending to spiritual formation is “about entertaining these seemingly troublesome and unpredictable angels who turn up at surprising and rarely convenient times and places.” (Guenther)

God invites our attention:

Welcome and listen to the angel;
go and find the child in the manger;
be there;

Prayer before reading:

Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Help me to see as you see,
To recognize your presence.
Open the inn of my life
Prepare my soul to offer you room.

Nativity of our Lord; first Sunday after Christmas

12/24 Monday: Luke 2:1-7
12/25 Tuesday, Christmas Day: Luke 2:8-20
12/26 Wednesday: Psalm 96
12/27 Thursday: Isaiah 9:2-7; 63:7-9
12/28 Friday: John 1:1-14
12/29 Saturday: Luke 2:41-52
12/30 Sunday: Luke 2:41-52