4th Sunday of Advent, December 24th, 2017


There’s a strangeness to the Christmas story, and the happenings surrounding Christ’s birth.  At the outset, it seems strange and somewhat unfair that Zechariah is struck dumb before the angel and as he announces John’s birth.    The way Mary conceives, too, is strange and unheard of, is it not?  The power of the Most High overshadows her.    

Then, there’s Joseph caught in the thick of it.  He decides to divorce Mary quietly and out of the kindness of his heart; not wishing to publically shame her.  Out of the blue his decision takes a U-turn, however.  He is strangely awakened by an angel and within a dream, seeing it all quite differently. 

Then, there’s the lack of room in Bethlehem where traveler’s lodge; the birth happening in an overnight shelter for animals.  The newborn swaddled and placed in a feeding trough.  It is a birth that happens in a strange and unfamiliar place, and noticed first by shepherds who hear of it in a strangely luminous crescendo of praise in the night sky overhead.  This birth we recall and celebrate is quite strange and mysterious.

It reveals how God thinks ‘beyond the box’; writing ‘straight with crooked lines’.   What stands out amid all the strangeness is that those involved in this birth go along with its mysterious nature, despite the questions and fear; the unknown.  Despite it all, they find the willingness to be open to what is happening and the way God chooses to move within their lives.  Strange as it sounds, they enter a kind of dance, allowing God to lead. 

Why the strangeness?  I like to think it’s the way God grabs our attention.  Knocked head-over-heels and into our controlling lives God comes. 

One winter afternoon and years ago, I was hiking through the woods and up to the ridge above the Abbey.  It had snowed, making the woods silent, still.   On my descent, I slipped and took a fall that knocked the wind from me.  Suddenly, that fall un-lodged a surge of deep emotion inside me; a forgotten hurt.  To my surprise, I began to weep and in a way that was cathartic.   Slowly, I picked myself up and continued my snowy descent; strangely graced and with this newborn awareness of God within me.  Because of Christ’ birth, God fathoms every joy and every hurt we carry inside us.  God is with us and in ways that take us by surprise.

I wish you and your loved ones a most Blessed Christmas.  With Mary, Joseph and the shepherds may we find ourselves more open to the strange and mysterious ways God moves within our lives.

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

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