Happy New Year everyone! I do hope that you all enjoyed a nice Christmas last week. I’m still warming up from our Christmas Eve Service out of doors! As much as we find ourselves in a New Year, we don’t want to leave the lessons of Christmas too soon. There seems to be such a long period of preparation for the holidays, both in our culture as well as in our liturgical calendar that is meant to help us prepare for the birth of Christ, and yet, the holiday flies by quickly and we find ourselves picking up the wrapping paper, taking down the decorations and wondering if we fully appreciated the spiritual meaning of this beautiful and blessed day. Let us pray,
Our own Anne Murray shared this lovely story with me last week and I thought it would be a nice jumping off point for our reflection this day…
It was Christmas Eve at the famed Riverside Church in New York City, and with William Sloan Coffin, Jr. scheduled to preach, the pews were packed. The Christmas Pageant was on and had come to the point where the innkeeper was to say that there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary pregnant with Jesus.
The part seemed perfect for Tim, an earnest youth of the congregation who has Down Syndrome. Only one line to memorize and he had practiced it again and again with his parents and with the pageant director. He seemed to have mastered it.
So there Tim stood at the altar, a bathrobe over his clothes, as Mary and Joseph made their way down the center aisle. They approached him, said their lines, and waited for his reply. “There’s no room at the inn,” he boomed out, just as rehearsed.
But then, as Mary and Joseph turned to travel further, Tim suddenly yelled, “Wait!” They turned back startled. “You can stay at my house,” he called.
Bill Coffin strode to the pulpit, said “Amen,” and sat down.
It was, as Marian Wright Edelman says, the best sermon he never preached.
And so, that story may prompt our own reflections this week after Christmas. We’ve heard the birth stories of Jesus throughout our lives, and I imagine that most of us could do a good retelling of this charming story by heart. But, here’s the question for us. What does it mean to us? How has this story formed us and how we live our lives? How has it influenced how we live and how we treat others? Why is it a story we hold close to our hearts…if we in fact do that?
We find ourselves at the start of another New Year in the middle of a pandemic and it’s been really hard. Perhaps some among us have made resolutions for this coming year while others are just plain weary and doing whatever they can to hold onto their sanity and care for themselves in body and soul. We know that Jesus was born in a very challenging time himself and that his own parents had to flea to Egypt so that he would not be put to death by the deranged King Herod. So before he was aware of the world into which he was born, life was hard for his parents and for many others within the Jewish community in Israel.
“You can stay at my house,” says the child in this story. He understood the heart of the message, didn’t he? He absorbed that lesson and he translated it into action. He opened the door in his own life to make room for this baby Jesus and his family. What doors might we open this year to make room in our minds and hearts to invite the love of the Christ Child into our lives more fully? What doors might we need to open so that we feel less fearful, less anxious, less upset each day? And, what doors might we need to carefully close…perhaps the doors that do not lead us to love and peace, hope and understanding.
I’ll close with a short blessing by Joyce Rupp for the New Year…
Standing at the Gates of the New Year
Waiting on the threshold
Of this new year,
You open the gates
And beckon to us:
Be not wary of what awaits you
As you enter the unknown terrain,
Be not doubtful of your ability
To grow from its joys and sorrows.
For I am with you.
I will be your Guide.
I will be your Protector.
You will never be alone.”
Guardian of this new year,
We set aside our fear, worries, concerns,
We open our lives to mystery, to beauty,
To hospitality, to questions,
To the endless opportunity
Of discovering you in our relationships,
And to all the silent wisps of wonder
That draw us to your heart.
We welcome your unfailing Presence
And walk with hope into this new year.
From: Out of the Ordinary by Joyce Rupp
Wishing you every blessing in the New Year ahead! May God bless each of you with deep peace, good health and real joy. Amen.