Santa Barbara Mission at Christmas...
On Friday my mother and I attended a mini-retreat at the Mission. The retreat covered one of my favorite readings. The reading from Luke on the birth of Christ.
In case your forgot or don't know it...
"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.""
What I find so moving about this reading is well..., it's frankly so ordinary. Of all the mysteries of faith, this is so easy to understand. A young woman giving birth to a child. Perhaps that is why it still moves me each and every time I encounter it. I can imagine a young woman suddenly in labor: no ER, no midwife, no doctor available--It happens everyday in the world. It is the most simple of concepts, but no other event in our history has a more profound meaning. Perhaps that is why every Christmas Eve when I stand in my most uncomfortable but stunning shoes and hear this reading--I ugly cry.
You see, I look around in whatever church I have the good fortune to attend and I see myself in every face. I see my beauty and my brokenness, my love, my pain, my hurt and hope. In friends, in strangers, in my family, in the face of my Beauties, my husband and my mother. I see my faith, my community...
I'm reminded as always, that we are all saints and sinners.
I see little ones so excited they can't sit still, I see babies sleeping on parents, I see proud grandparents, I see the elderly couples sharing what may be their final Christmas mass together on this earth. I see young love and hearts that hunger for love.
I see Christ in every-face.
The folks who are in church to please, and faces that are in the same pew every Sunday, and I see the beauty of little ones having their first Christmas.
This my fellow Pilgrims is what Christmas is for me... The Community of Saints.
I have but one thought to offer you this Christmas. For those of you searching for a little comfort, for those of you searching the world to find the Divine, for those of you looking for a love to complete you. You already have it.
You see as you search to find the Divine, the Divine is already here. In you and in me. You just have to be willing to open the door, the door that sticks just a bit. To open yourself to the places in your heart you don't feel comfortable opening. That place that you think is dark, scary and unlovable. Because it is that place Pilgrims, that place that you can't imagine love, is where you meet God.
You see there is a similar place in a small and dirty stable in Bethlehem where God chose to share his unending love with us. It's in that stable where Christ became one with us. I often find it surprising that folks don't realize that God is in them, that love is God. That God is joy. That in community we support, we walk together, we serve, we are the face of God to one another and that God is in us.
So as you rush and run, wrap and toil, clean, make the beds and set the table, as you iron the dresses and shirts for your prince and princesses; remember God is with you, in you and around you always. That HIS love shines on us....
Remember that the beautiful translation of the Hebrew word Emmanuel is; "God is with us," and that, is the true meaning of Christmas.
May the light of the Holy Christmas season shine on you and all you love today and always.
Photo Credit: Mr. PilgrimageGal