Faith Coloured Glasses looks at everyday experience through the eyes of faith. In daily life we encounter the presence and activity of God. Topics include personal spirituality, comments on current events, and seasonal articles.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Christmas is an opportunity to tune into the sacred
It was hard not to be tuned into
the possibility that Kate might be pregnant.The tabloids had been speculating for weeks.The speculation came to an end when the Duchess of Cambridge required
medical attention for acute morning sickness. At that point, Prince William’s
office had little choice but to announce the pregnancy, even though the royal
couple may have preferred to keep the news to themselves.
Reaction to the announcement came
quickly as people tweeted their congratulations, which ranged from the
predictable to the euphoric. The more euphoric statements
described the pregnancy as a “global phenomenon” and as the “good news that everyone
has been waiting for.” There were
predictions for the future: “this baby will secure the future of the monarchy
for decades” and “this baby will be the most famous child in modern
history.”There were expectations
of universal joy: “this baby will bring joy to many around the world.”
Thinking of a long ago pregnancy
This highly public pregnancy and
the reaction to it make me think of another pregnancy. It was a pregnancy that
did not generate widespread excitement, although it had certain notoriety. A young Jewish girl had returned
from a visit to her cousin and she was obviously pregnant. The news
spread quickly. The rumor mill was working overtime. Instead of congratulations, there was innuendo and criticism.
While he felt betrayed, her betrothed kept his cards close to
his heart as he pondered his next step. Like everyone else in the village, he
wondered how this could have happened. Who was the father?
While people were quick to condemn her, they wondered about the sanity of her betrothed. If he were
not the father, then he was a fool, treating her with an honor she did not
deserve.The women shunned her and
the men were preparing to stone her.
This may have been the reaction
that Mary and Joseph faced in their little town, where it was impossible to
keep Mary’s pregnancy a secret. While people in the surrounding villages were
talking about it, none were offering euphoric congratulations. In their view, this
was a shameful pregnancy; it was definitely not good news. No one was waiting
for this baby to secure the future of a nation. No one expected this baby to be
a global phenomenon.
The people were wrong. This baby
was good news and he would influence the lives of many. This baby, Jesus of
Nazareth, was sacred; he was the expression of the presence of God among us.
Recognizing the sacred in our midst
That long ago pregnancy teaches
us something about recognizing the sacred in our midst. The sacred manifests
itself to us in subtle ways. Like a woman who has yet to discover that she is
pregnant, we may be unaware that we carry the sacred within our being. Like the
critics of Mary and Joseph, we may be unaware that the sacred is about to enter
into our experience. We are not tuned in.
"Madonna with Child" Francisco de Zubaran 1658
In the birth of the Christ child,
we have a beautiful image of the sacred as immanent and as
transcendent. In Mary’s tender caress of her newborn son as he nurses at her breast, we have an image of the soul responding to the
gentle touch of God’s presence.
In the tiny and dependent Christ
child, we sense that the sacred is vulnerable and susceptible to neglect. We
begin to understand that just as parents care lovingly for their child, we must
nurture what is sacred within our self. Then, we are better able to recognize
and respond to the sacred in others and in creation.
In the report of angelic choirs
appearing in the night sky to announce the birth of this child, and in the
legends of animals kneeling before this baby in a manger, we find a metaphor
for the presence of the sacred in the world around us.
Becoming pregnant with the possibility of transformation
While nurturing a sense of the
sacred in a secular world may seem like foolishness, it is a trusting response
to God’s invitation. God asks us to become pregnant with the
possibility of our own transformation.As an unborn baby slowly develops in the silence and darkness of the
womb, our inner transformation occurs invisible to the eye, until, little by
little, we give birth to the love and the joy manifested in that first
Christmas, when a young Jewish mother wrapped her babe in swaddling clothes and
laid him in a manger.