The Christ Mass has been celebrated since about 400 AD. The story brings Light into darkness, Hope into hopeless situations. The story focuses on the birth of a baby, born to a Middle Eastern couple, who find themselves homeless. On this fourth Advent Sunday we traditionally remember Mary, a young girl, a teenager. She suddenly finds herself pregnant and is visited by an angel. (It could be a bad hair day!) The child she is carrying is destined to fulfill the prophesies concerning the Jewish Messiah. The Magnificat in Luke 1, sung by Mary as she carries the baby born to be such an important person in human history, gives us hope, hope of justice, of material relief from poverty, hope of change, release for captives.
She was pregnant before being married and we are told that Joseph, her fiancé, thinking the worst, plans to divorce her. It's a story with ominous beginnings. It is a story of personal crisis. The Christmas story begins with shame, the shame of a pregnant, unmarried teenage mother. It goes on to release its power through the childless, the dumb, the poor. This Christmas they are all still with us. Those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless.
The story gives us options. Superficially it is a story of a poor Palestinian family who are homeless, as the young mother goes into labour, at the time of the Roman census. Interestingly there are rumours of angels and three wise men travel from Persia/Iran to worship the baby. And the then king gets in a state because this baby could threaten his authority.
We do know Jesus existed, was born as a baby and that those around him described him as a religious teacher, a prophet, a miracle man. We know that like his birth, the nature of his death had unexpected controversial twists and turns. The rest is up to us.
The divine is birthed by a teenage mother. Teenage mothers are still ostracized today. God was carried by someone who could be seen as a problem, someone not mainstream. This homeless God is homed in her. Any fanciful ideas we have about God need earthing and birthing. Pregnancy is an emotional, fragile and exciting experience. Being on the edge of the old and the new.
At the very least it’s a good story and better than many others that we are fed. At the very least it is a story with a message of hope for us all to feed our spirits and our imaginations and to inspire us in turn to bring hope and peace on earth.
The world needs this kind of hope, this kind of story, this Christmas. And of such stuff are dreams made of and of such stuff is the journey we embark on when we begin to engage with the spiritual possibilities this story invokes, so that we too can become part of the story, catching its message of hope and passing it on, like a candle burning in the darkness of an often dark world.