The story of Christmas as it is told in the Gospel paints an idyllic picture. It looks like a beautiful scene with the young parents, Mary and Joseph, caring for their new baby. Shepherds are tending their flocks, angels are singing “Glory to God in the highest.” It is a scene that is good and beautiful. The Son of God is being born into the world.
Along with this beautiful scene, there are also some things that are unsettling. Like the lack of compassion of the people at the inn who turned the young couple away leaving the Son of God to be born in a barn with a feeding trough for animals as his first bed. Mary and Joseph were on the road in the first place because the Roman government, which was illegally occupying the territory, sought even more control by calling for a mandatory census of the land. Complying with the law, Mary and Joseph were on their way to be counted. Their baby would grow up to confront the sin of the world and die because of it. None of this is beautiful at all.
Celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God on this first day of the new year, the Scriptures remind us that life in Christ is about living amidst the good and the bad. Looking back on the past year, we know of events that were both good and bad, beautiful and ugly. The challenge for us beginning this new year is to make responsible decisions in the midst of both the good and the bad. In good times, we can celebrate and grow in gratitude, generosity and compassion. Or we can get greedy, always wanting more. We can become arrogant, thinking the good thing that happened is proof we are better than others. In bad times, we can renew our reliance on God, look for ways to be helpful or see how things might be done differently. Or we can get cynical, bitter, vengeful or hateful.
Mary knew well the struggle of living with the good and the bad. In the temple, while she joyfully gave thanks for her son, her heart was also being pierced with a sword of sorrow. She embraced everything, the good and the bad, reflecting on them in her heart (Luke 2:16-21). With the help of her prayers in this new year, may we do the same.
A blessed new year to all,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector