I'm glad for Christmas though. I'm glad for time with my family and time to rest. I'm glad for my daughter's questions about why we have Christmas and who is Jesus and who is Santa and also for her joy in opening presents and playing with new toys. I'm glad for special cookies and my mom's holiday soup, which is what we call the creamy chicken potato soup that she always makes on Christmas Eve. Mostly though I'm glad for the promise of Christmas, the promise that light comes after dark, the promise of hope and renewal inherent in a story of Emmanuel, which means G-D with us, present in our lives.
One of the commonly sung and read prayers this time of year is the Magnificat (Luke Ch 1 Vs 46-55) spoken by Mary to her cousin Elizabeth.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
And holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
In remembrance of his mercy,
According to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
Mary spoke these words in a time of fear and anxiety in her life; newly pregnant, unwed, uncertain what would happen to her in a time and culture that condemned unwed pregnant women to death. She spoke as a poor woman and a member of a conquered and occupied nation. Her words ring with hope for the oppressed, that justice will triumph and G-D’s arm will lift them up while casting down the oppressors. Her words don’t speak of armed rebellion or violence by humans. Instead they bathe in the promise of G-D’s action to save his people.
Cultures around this world celebrate this time of year, this turning time when darkness and cold are at their deepest in the Northern hemisphere. We light candles and fires, we feast on good things, we rejoice in the green that does not die. We celebrate in peaceful defiance of the night, the dark and the chill. We gather as communities to remind ourselves that light will come once more. Our specific stories change but our themes are the same; hope, love, peace, joy.
The Christmas story is about the power of light over dark. It’s the story of G-D, the creator, the all-powerful, entering this crazy beautiful broken mixed up world as the son of a unwed mother from the ghetto. G-D identifies with the oppressed, living and dying in a way that rejected violence, power, wealth and dominion. And in doing so he planted a new seed in our hearts, a new idea that love and peace and joy are powerful, that all people are valuable, that in G-D all are equal, men and women, parent and child, slave and free. That seed is slow growing and that plant has not come to full fruition yet. The Magnificat promises us that it will.