GNB 1.189

December 31, 2022 (The Sixth Day toward Epiphany)


“When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Mary, on the other hand, treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2.17-19)


You see, it wasn’t that the shepherds didn’t tell anyone and everyone what had happened that day and to them. They did. I even can see the scenario that as the shepherds went on the search for the Christ child they had a pied piper effect. In their awe, wonder and enthusiasm they might have drawn a crowd. Can you see it, too? Isn’t it human nature to listen to what others are saying which seemingly has nothing to do with “your business”? When someone whispers, you quieten yourself with a desire to hear what you probably shouldn’t. When we you see an accident, you slow down less concerned for safety but with an urgency for a look and see. When you hear a band playing, you look for a party or a parade with a leaning to “what’s in it for me.” Then what happens? The news isn’t “juicy” enough? There were no fatalities to observe and little notice was given to the accident behind you perhaps caused by your careless rubbernecking? When the music stopped, the dance for a tasty tidbit was not nearly as satisfying as was first thought? Yes, I can see a throng of people captivated by the sheer spirit of intensity of the shepherds seeking a baby as if it were lost lamb under their care. And that, too, certainly draws an interested crowd. No one really wants to be in the vicinity of a lost child because it could be their own son or daughter in a different situation. Finally, the child is found in a manger in a cave used for a stable for an out of the way inn that was crowded already with a mass of humanity. And when the shepherds’ quiet acclamation (we don’t want to wake the baby) had ceased, when the band of shepherds played on headed back to their flocks in the field and people saw “it was really a baby?”, everyone went back to their own business or settled down in the frustrated silence of waiting until the unpleasant task at hand was completed, like the census. Kind of a let down, huh? It wasn’t what those shepherds trumped it up to be. It was a Sunday morning, the show is over and now back to our regularly scheduled program of life. What? You think I am kidding?

Let’s look at our own “Christ was born” celebration. Lights, tree, wrapped gifts, a goose in the oven, a parade and a football game or two or three, the bustling of family and friends invited over for a meal and the exchanging of gifts, a few snoozes or conversations while the games drone on in the background and the wary eye on the clean-up work that is waiting for when everyone has gone. Ever wondered why kids were more interested in the boxes than the bags used today to gift one another? What’s really left to the imagination? What was “that” all about? And in the midst of all that “amazing” stuff, Mary sat quietly pondering in her heart “what is this all about”? I mean, honestly, most women are not exactly in the most talkative mood after going through labor and the birthing of a child. They have that awe and wonder look because of the miracle of life which just happened to them. But, they are not exactly in a real “let’s get up and dance” frame of mind. What about a fourteen year old girl? That is the most likely age of Mary at the time when Jesus was born. A hundred mile ride on a donkey to Bethlehem from Nazareth down a crowded road most often frequented by bandits while being nine months pregnant and already experiencing Braxton Hicks does not sound like my kind of “a good day.” I can detail a more uncomfortable journey which concluded with “no room in the inn” so having to settle for a less sterile environment such as a musty cave used as a stable was the “best” option. And then, “in the middle of the night,” this child has a child. Talking about making the best of a less than ideal situation, this would be it. So, let’s excuse Mary for not joining in on “all the reindeer games.” Soaking the whole picture in was more than overwhelming. It was unimaginably surreal. One moment you are the center of attention, you and your baby, and the next moment the sound of the parade moves on down the street. What about you, Mary, did you finally find that peace, quiet and solace that was so desperately needed. The rest we all crave after the Christmas chaos has settled and the vacuum left is a most welcome friend. And all the while, Mary knew in her heart “This is just the beginning!” Joseph knew it, too. But, they had no idea what the journey would be if this was its beginning. We do!

And yet, in our journey to Epiphany (of which this is day six of twelve) when magi confirm what God had spoken by His prophets, His angels and His shepherds, where are we? Are we singing the sixth verse of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” more in tune with “five golden rings and a partridge in a pear tree” than “six geese a-laying.” Do we even know what this verse is talking about? Who gives a goose at Christmas except for Ebenezer Scrooge to Bob Cratchit’s family as a part of his repentance for living a selfish life and being spared by a fate worse than death? Granted it was the finest goose still available on Christmas morning. It was worth “half a crown” to the errand boy and a hefty profit for the storekeeper in whose window it still hung for sale. But, six geese intended for laying eggs and not being the centerpiece on the Christmas dinner table? Well, tradition will tell us that in the Christian catechism (a teaching methodology) the “six geese a-laying” were representative of the six days of creation. Each day giving birth to a new reality from the ordering of chaos by the light of God’s Word to the making of humanity in the very image of God revealed in God’s Son. Oh yes, God’s Son. And on the seventh day God and humanity rested from all their “labor” and considered in their heart all that had been said and done. Don’t you just love it when a story comes together? I know I do. Still, tying up “one loose end” only leads us to more which is yet to be revealed. That is the meaning of Epiphany: revelation. Even though “The Book of Revelation” is the story of the end of the age of the Church, it is truly only the beginning of a new life which is lived in the House of the Lord forever. So, there is more to come. As one chapter closes, another opens. We think we know where this story ends but do we really know the details that make it the greatest story ever told? That is the joy of Christmas for me. It isn’t about closing the book on another year. It is about anticipating what God is yet to do as He has planned to do in and through each of our lives given to Him. And so on this sixth day, I find it fitting that we are gathered in reflection on New Years’ Eve waiting for Sunday and the beginning of another year of the Lord. This Sunday is the seventh day, a day of rest and holiness, of Christmas leading to Epiphany. But, it is also the eighth day in the life of Mary, Joseph and their baby Jesus, God’s only begotten Son. With that I will bid you a blessed eve of a new year and welcome you to join with me tomorrow on another day in our journey as mighty ones of God.


Father, thank You for sharing the greatest story ever told and including us in all its benefits. May the story be so real to us, for us and in us that we share it with the desire for others to see themselves in it and enjoy all its benefits which come from being Your people, the sheep of Your pasture. AMEN.

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