Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Do You Hear What I Hear....?
Do you hear what I hear? Our gospel text from St. Luke’s account of the Nativity lets some of the protagonists of this story speak to us even today. Can you hear their voices on this Christmas Eve?
The voice of an emperor:
Cesar Augustus issues a decree that the entire world should be taxed, and the writer of our gospel account has the whole of Judea on the move to be registered in the city of their family’s origin. Surely the motives of the emperor had nothing to do with neither religion nor the fulfillment of ancient prophecies but his will set into motion events beyond his knowledge and reach. We find parallels to this in Scripture and the history of people of faith. Despite the hardened heart of Pharaoh, the pride of Nebuchadnezzar, the greed of Herod, even the cynicism of Pontius Pilate the purposes of God have been at work. Imposing as the voices of these and other earthly rulers must have seemed to their subjects, they could not drown the proclamations of the prophetic voices nor the coming of the kingdom of God. It is indeed true as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans;
“For I am sure that neither… rulers…nor powers, … will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. "
There is more than one agenda for our lives and our world! There is one that is set by the very love of God which moves inexorably forward and is heard above the voice of men. Governments, rulers, politicians will say and do what they will, but beyond their plans and agendas the will of God unfolds in ways unforeseen. Cesar called for a tax….God called for his son to be born in the city of David!
The voice of the pilgrims
It is hard to imagine the scene at Bethlehem as anything but hectic on the day and night which the gospel describes. Travelers to and fro, noisy family reunions, children playing and crying, a flurry of activity at the markets and the inns full of guests. And, unnoticed among the many that had come to the town that day were a carpenter and his very pregnant wife Mary.
The Hispanic tradition of Posadas recounts that journey for nine consecutive nights before Christmas Eve. Joseph and Mary knock at the doors of many in Bethlehem but find no shelter even as the night approaches. Is there no room at a relative’s house or a nearby inn? Their voices bring us a reminder of many in our city and society for whom there seems to be no place. The poor, the homeless, the infirm, the mentally ill, the immigrant, the different, sometimes find their knocks at the door of opportunity, education, family and even religion unwilling to open. These are voices which can be easily drowned out by those of shoppers and carolers, greeters and preachers, politicians and actors.
Could it be that there are voices we do not want to hear during this season? Our gospel story does not allow us to do so, reminding us to listen, to take notice of those who call in their need, retelling the story that, once upon a time, the king of heaven’s very mother was left no place to go for shelter but to a stable
The voice of the Angels
Even as the night settles, Mary and Joseph find much needed refuge and a child is born, celestial voices call for all to hear! To shepherds guarding their flocks, to the poor, the simple, to you, me and to the whole world the angel voices bring tidings of joy! Today in the city of David is born a Savior which is Christ the Lord! Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth! It is a call to worship, to sing, to adore! The light of the heavens, the life of the world….has been born.
The book of Hebrews has a beautiful passage which has been applied to the birth of Christ, how God as he introduced his Firstborn to the world said; “adore him all you angels of God…” It is into that heavenly worship that we are invited by the voices of the angels even as it must have been on that night in Bethlehem.
Do we hear?...