Rev. Deborah Rundlett is the pastor of Ridgebury Congregational Church.
Scripture: Luke 2:1-14 (NRSV)
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
Reflection: Paradoxical Christmas
My understanding of Christmas has evolved over the decades. I know come to the manger with eyes that see life shaped by both birth and death. I come knowing that Jesus’ birth leads to crucifixion, and that only through death can we come to resurrection.
Hymn writer Brian Wren captures this beautifully:
Sing my song backwards, from ending to beginning,
Friday to Monday, from dying to birth.
Nothing is altered, but hope changes everything;
Sing resurrection and peace on earth!
Stretch out a rainbow from cross to nativity.
Deck out the stable with shepherds and kings,
Angels and miracles, glory and poetry,
Sing my song backwards till all the world sings!
Such is the paradox of our faith that we await the return of our Savior, even as we celebrate his birth. Like Mary, I find myself pondering many things in my heart. She knew that the advent of Emmanuel into our lives comes with a price. The price of a love that will love us and test us that we might be molded in the image of Incarnate Love. The price of a love that risked loss and pain. The price of a love that paid the ultimate sacrifice of death on a cross.
The wisdom of the desert Abbas and Amas reminds us: Through sorrow God carves in our souls’ channels through which may flow rivers of joy. We cannot encounter the true joy of Christmas without also facing the sorrows born of loss, suffering and injustice. While Madison Avenue would have us focus on the tinsel and lights, Love calls us to receive the one gift that cannot be bought: the gift of Emmanuel.
May we dare to receive—and give—that gift of Love this season.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving or suffering as our nation surpasses 400 mass shootings (currently 404) in 2019.
- For those grieving as the death toll rises from the White Island Volcano eruption in New Zealand. 19 have died while 2 persons remain missing.
- For those suffering after a massive vehicle crash in Virginia involving more than 60 vehicles
- For those who suffer emotionally due to loss or trauma during this Christmas season.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the joys of Christmas Day.
A Note from the Editor:
As the Southern New England Conference officially begins operation January 1, you will note some changes in the Starting With Scripture publication. We will no longer list an alphabetized group of churches for prayer considerations. Request for prayers for specific churches will made as churches are in need of intercession or celebrating joys. Please feel free to contact me with requests for your church and include the reason for the request.
This Week in History:
December 25, 1914 (105 years ago) The so-called Christmas Truce begins in the trenches of the western front of World War 1. Reports tell of opposing soldiers laying down arms and greeting their enemies with Christmas greetings, songs, and gifts of food, souvenirs and cigarettes. One report states that soldiers even played soccer together. The war increased in violence and intensity during and following 1915 making the Christmas Truce one of the last recorded moments of chivalry between enemies in a conflict.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”