Over the past weeks of December we have followed the message of Advent and viewed a broad span of perspectives on ways we meet the divine. We began with a picture of the collapsing creation and the appearance of the Son of God appearing in glory. We spoke of how the church speaks of revelation in two primary ways. On the one hand general revelation is apparent in the wonder of creation.
Specific revelation comes so clearly as a gift to address a specific situation.
We progressed to highlight the numerous wise, prophetic voices scattered across society but how we must learn to hear the wisdom of God within, if we are to discern the prophetic voices crying out in the wilderness of our calamitous society.
MARY AND JOSEPH
Today we have read the story of Mary and Joseph, the beautiful family experience that takes us to the other extreme from that of the first picture we spoke of depicting the collapse of creation that opened the glory of God. In the tender personal encounters of life, the Holy Family illustrates how in the intimacy of our relationships we experience the glory of God.
From the earliest times of human inkling that a divine existed, theories like polytheism, monotheism, theism, belief in God wanted to put God way beyond the realms of creation. It was a good beginning but far from comprehensive. And comprehensive is the crucial word. It is necessary to consider, if we are to take seriously the scriptures that speak of God as ‘all and in all.’ There is something more that we must consider.
God is more experience than knowledge.
Christmas brings us a significantly different understanding of God. If we perceived of the divine infinite absolute as God then with Christmas such understanding is grounded in our very experience. And the most intense experiences of the grounding of God is often found in the most intimate of experiences.
It’s the story of the Holy family that illustrates this experience of intimacy so well. Mary and Joseph, just the typical young lovers, enjoying their company, irrespective of the circumstance.
The Roman edict demanding a return to the city of birth meant the two shared a less than idyllic donkey ride to Bethlehem.
But it was shared.
The crowded city saw them left with nothing but a stable. But the stable they shared. Word of terror drove them on another long donkey ride to Egypt where together they lived until word of Herod’s death paved the way for their safe return.
They were a couple sharing the challenges of life together.
A time of great intimacy. Lovers, parents, a family.
What is so important about their story is that there is another depth to the message of intimacy.
Intimacy is about sharing the experience of another. It is the quality of communion, of communication. What we read is that the angel Gabrielle appears to Mary. Angel means messenger. A messenger of God.
The angel signifies the communication between God and human, and more specifically in this case the specific communication between God and Mary. It is a communication that cannot be detected by anyone else other than the two involved. Mary’s response completes the circle of communication, the two are one.
The second part of the story which we do not read today but completes the family story is the dream that informs Joseph of Gods plan. Again it is a message of intimacy for it is for Joseph alone and considers his personal need. Like Mary, Joseph’s cooperative response completes the circle of communication and the two have become one - God and Joseph.
THE HOLY FAMILY
The Holy Family is bonded on a natural level, but more significantly by respecting the deeper realities of life, they share both the natural story of life, brought to its fulfillment by participating in the Godly perspective.
THE CHALLENGE OF GIFT
The intimacy of lovers, the bond of parent and child, the delight of intimate friendships, the noble connection of carer and needy, such intimate experiences are the bedrock of our pleasure and delight. But there is a challenge. For so easily such experiences can become self indulgent and self-serving. There is a fine line between the two.
The pleasure and delight of intimacy are incomplete in themselves. The life of Mary and Joseph had that more comprehensive purpose. They lived the story that sought to reveal the intimacy of God in all of nature. It was from the personal experience of intimacy that the spirit within our being, seeks engagement with gods love and care for the wonder of creation and the delight of human companionship.
So we come to the last week of Advent having prepared our heart and mind for a deeper engagement with the divine. From the Cosmic vista, through the social perspective of the prophetic voice to the gift of intimacy, the divine will seek to engage our lives in love.
We have prepared ourselves for entering more comprehensively the divine presence.
We humbly and gratefully enter the stable of Jesus birth, and in his glorious presence we realize that such glory cannot be contained within the stable itself. In fact it cannot be contained in the whole of creation.
Let us come to the glory of Christmas hungry for the greatest gift of life