December 24: Where is the Star Pointing You?
From the Episcopal Networks Collaborative “O Antiphons: Advent 2017”
INCARNATION Sparking a Grassroots Movement
I love to participate in Las Posadas (The Inns), a Mexican/Latin American tradition of depicting Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.
I can feel the experience of that journey to Bethlehem, crowds of people around, many of them travelers who were commanded to leave their lives to comply with the bureaucracy of responding to a government census. Crowds, noise, tiredness were definitely part of the scene.
We know the story, Joseph desperately begging for a place to sleep, and for Mary to be comfortable during the imminent birth of her child. “No room here”, “Move on”, “We have no place for people like you”.
It is no surprise that the faith-based immigrants’ rights movements of today uses the structure of Las Posadas as a message of vigils to bring about hospitality, and justice for immigration reform.
The story of Jesus birth I was presented with as a child is very much alive in the commercialization of Christmas, but it is very different from what I reflect on now, and what motivates my actions. The blond haired, blue eyed angels flitting around in prom dresses and the docile equally blond haired blue eyed little shepherd boys are pretty far-fetched. “FEAR NOT” say the angels, implying they had to assure the listeners that it was safe to listen to them. The shepherds were workers, wage earners, and most likely low wage earners. I will bet they were not unionized!
The angels directed the shepherds to go to Bethlehem to find this very special baby who had been born. Some left the fields, traveling from the rural countryside into this urban scene of confusion, trying to find a needle in a haystack. They would have sought out people they felt comfortable asking for directions, other workers, stable workers, housekeepers for the inns, etc. These were the people who would have known first.
The shepherds did find the baby in the stable, a relatively quiet place away from the noise, confusion and hubbub of the town, with only the company of the servant animals, and those working around the stable they discovered the baby, being cared for by Mary and Joseph, in the simplicity of the night. “Come to the Quiet”, the title of a song by singer and Franciscan, John Michael-Talbot describes for me what was happening.
The shepherds will go back to their fields, carrying with them the marvelous story in the oral tradition, which is truth for communities from the dawning of language. We don’t really know if the Magi encountered the shepherds at the time they arrived bearing gifts of gold and precious herbs. We do understand they “emptied their hands” of their riches, the shepherds had come empty handed, but, it did not matter. We honor both shepherds and Magi in our Christmas tradition.
Not much information is given to us about Jesus childhood formative years, but certainly his parents would have talked with him about his birth instilling in him passion and respect for the poor and those not so poor. His birth brought people from all walks of life together. It is the basis for much of the Gospel tradition, The Song of Mary, The laborers in the Vineyard, The Fish and the Loaves. We are called to a life which offers sustainability to all regardless of origin, to break down the barriers that have created classism, racism and economic oppression.
Our Presiding Bishop is using the concept of The Beloved Community to encompass his call for renewal of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement at the grass roots level (https://www.episcopalchurch.org/racial-reconciliation). The Episcopal Networks Collaborative (UBE, ENEJ, EpEN) supports this movement and is part of it. We are especially concerned with reforming systems which maintain the divisions according to race, gender, class, and all the other isms used to marginalize, exclude and oppress different groups of people.
I wish you all peace as we move into the cycle of Incarnation.
Dianne Aid, TSSF For the Episcopal Networks Collaborative