Day 269 “The Word Made Flesh” Luke 2
September 27, 2021, 3:52 AM

Day 269 “The Word Made Flesh” Luke 2

Ok, here’s the picture---Mary and Joseph are traveling to Bethlehem, and Mary, visibly pregnant, sits uncomfortably on the back of a donkey as they walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem. WAIT! That’s not what happens! There’s no donkey in Luke’s story, but we have been trained to see that donkey by numerous Christmas cards and holiday movies. No. Donkey.

Ok. The next scene is when the child is born and wrapped in swaddling clothes, and all the animals kneel down around the manger where the baby Jesus is sleeping. You know how the Christmas carol goes: “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes. But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes” right??? WAIT!! Hold on! Luke doesn’t mention any lowing cattle, and if Jesus is a human baby, he certainly has to cry at some point, doesn’t he? Why is crying bad?

We have become so conditioned to see the story of baby Jesus in a certain way that we automatically supply the details of a story that did not happen at all the way our Fisher Price manger kit depicts it. We need to stop doing that because when we think we know the story so well that we can fill in the details and they aren’t in the story we have allowed the world to co-opt the scriptures to give us a picture of what the birth of Jesus looked like.

So let’s really look at the details. A first time mom, who is also a virgin, is about to give birth, but she has to walk across the hot desert with her husband, who is not the father of the baby, who could have stoned her to death but he didn’t. When they get to their destination, she’s in labor, and he has no reservations to stay anywhere, partly because any family they would have had in Bethlehem rejected them because of Mary’s pregnancy. Hospitals don’t exist, and they are strangers and sinced they don’t know any midwives in the area, she and her husband have to figure out where they are going to stay, and then how to have a baby. They get a place—the bottom story of a two story house. They get to stay where the animals stay under the family’s living quarters. Well, other women have had babies before, and Mary has been there for that, so both Mary and Joseph know the basic details of childbirth, but Mary has no doula, no helper, no relative, so Joseph has to do the unthinkable—he has to help his wife deliver her baby. Touching her during any of this would have made Joseph ritually unclean, but he goes ahead, he has compassion on her and on her unborn child, and he kneels down next to his laboring wife, catching the newborn baby boy as he emerges, slippery with birth fluids, and Joseph ties off the umbilical cord to complete the final separation between mother and son, and he makes sure that Mary is recuperating as he hands her the tiny, perfect little human baby, and she begins to nurse hm. These moments she treasured.

Eight days later, he is circumcised according to Jewish law, and forty days later he is brought to the Temple as his mother undergoes her ritual purification after childbirth. Going into the temple, they meet Simeon, who, like Mary and Zechariah, sees this baby Messiah and knows him, and Simeon too begins to sing a song about this child who will save the WORLD!! How do we know that Simeon thinks this? Because even though Simeon is a devout Jew, even though he has been taught that the Messiah will come to save the chosen people—the Jews—he sings these words: “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel,” (30-32).

Simeon, who has lived in the Temple and who has hoped and prayed for the salvation of the Jews suddenly expands his vision to include the Gentiles! Unthinkable! Impossible! And yet, cradling that baby in his arms, Simeon sees something he has never seen before, Simeon sees an equality of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, and having seen this, and having held the child Jesus, Simeon says that now he is free to die—he can be set free from the bondage of earth because he has seen the face of his Redeemer.

We don’t need to see imaginary donkeys or sheep kneeling next to mangers. We don’t need to think of Jesus as a baby who never cried. We don’t have to think of Joseph as a distant father because he was with his wife and adopted son from the moment of the child’s birth. We can only begin to imagine the deep shock that Mary experienced when she was told that the child she bore would cause a sword to pierce her own heart. She isn’t even able to have the honeymoon period that new parents sometimes experience when they look at their new baby and imagine all the amazing things he or she is going to do because, starting with a whole flock of dirty, disreputable shepherds who came ‘because the angels told us to’, her child is a lightning rod of unexpected visitors, events and yes, even spontaneous songs.

We have over sentimentalized this picture and added in a few details of our own.  Jesus was a human baby born of a human mother destined for the divinity that was also an equal part of his person. None of it was easy or charming for and none of it was without anxiety: “Your father and I have been searching for you with great anxiety,” Mary tells her son when he is 12 years old and they find hm n the Temple with the teachers and the elders after he stays behind while his parents traveled back to their home in Nazareth.

Joan Chittister, our contemplation writer for today says this: “the voice of God comes often from where we least expect it…and we must be listening for it”. Don’t make up the words, or add in details. Read what is there and wrestle with it as it is. Jesus is The Word, as John will tell us, he is the voice of God, and he came from a place where we would least expect it, from a dark, dirty and dank place in the basement of a home where animals were kept, where shepherds camped out, and where his mother held him long enough to memorize the color of his eyes, the smell of his baby neck, and the way he seemed to know the world before he had even been introduced to it. Treasures and swords indeed.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,



Post a Comment