December brings about a vibrant display of emotional and community events in many of our lives. It is a time of remembrance and reflection; we find ourselves sitting with friends, or alone pondering those close to us who have passed. We reflect on what our history means--the choices we have made march their way across our dinner plates and through our everyday conversations. And as the days grow darker, there is a pull, a tugging that allows the sense of the many things outside of our personal sphere closing inwards, taking the control out of our hands, sweeping into our community conscious.
And so in this sense of reflection, and during this time of communities coming inward, I think about what drives us forward into this season. I come to the conclusion that our lives, each of them, is made up of Christmas stories.
Now when I say “Christmas stories,” I mean those personal experiences which linger in us and lengthen us, those which involve the miraculous. I’d argue that each of us have this individual experience within us that is of the miraculous, but how do we define such a term? I’ll start with a working definition, and then we’ll move forward into the traditional Christmas story and see how it applies.
The miraculous. Unexpected, I think. Often throwing us off-kilter, shaking up our perspectives. Always involving “our people” in some way; our communities, families, the community of people formed on the bus, in the grocery store, what have you. And certainly, the miraculous is, at it’s core, transformative.
A young woman is standing by her basket of laundry. She hangs the linens to dry in the thirsty middle eastern air of a land she has always called home. Her thoughts this morning, as she looks out over the field next to her house, are on her dizziness and sickness from earlier today.
She knows, from watching her mother and talking with the other women in her community, what it means when she has not bled for more than a month. And in her heart she harbors a great deal of fear. She is not yet married. She is afraid of losing her home. She sees in the future reflected towards her as she steadies herself to pin another linen on the line, the loss of her future husband. She sees the loss of her family. She sees the possible loss of her life. As she considers these things, she runs her hands around her waist and thinks, “I have my future growing inside of me.”
Now here is where we introduce the miraculous. It doesn’t have to do with an angel, with a message from God, but with a decision on the part of Mary. That is the decision, small, simple, but powerful, that she, and what she suspects is growing inside of her, deserve a future of love, not loss. And so she calls this baby, in her mind and to her husband to be, what she has decided this child is and will be. In her view of faith, a gift from God. So here, Mary’s decision of an embrace is the first Christmas miracle.
The second comes from the response to the unexpected that Mary has presented, and this is the portion that involves people creating a transformation. When Mary explains her situation to Joseph and to her family, she says not that she is bringing shame to the community, but that she is bringing light. She says that she has a gift growing within her. And the way that significant numbers within her community respond is to support her view; they see her unexpected decision and decide to help her create “the miraculous.”
Now in my eyes, the rest of the story is the result of these two decisions. Mary’s giving birth, the survival of her child, her compassion, his vision of compassion in others--these all stem from the decision to say, within me there is a gift. I reject the darkness.
It is this decision, and the discussion of this decision as Jesus grows up, that creates a man who believes, in the end, in forgiveness and love. He has been shown by his mother that people are created from complexity, love, and the insistence that they should be loved. Now THAT is a miracle in parental judgement that continues to this day.
We have the power to create the miraculous for each other. Now whether you believe that people are created as an image of the divine, or you believe that people are simply people, you have that reflective, tremendously influential seed within you that allows us all to change each other’s lives.
So my invitation to you, during our season of waiting and darkness, is to create a great light. Go forward and embrace the miraculous.