We have come to be in the company of Bethlehem and one day we will come to the company of angels. If such a thing were not true than why does earth cast the wonderful reflection of heaven?
Finally Christmas has come. It has come with its cards and gifts. It has arrived with pretty dresses and hats and with pressed suits and ties. It has had ribbons and trees and parties and companionship. It has arrived with this and much more. At least, this is how it arrived for me.
But only one of those things was necessary. It needed only companionship. I am fortunate to have this. Most often this is the case, but I have to tell myself that there are also those who do not know this. They are usually the ones who lack those other things as well.
I do have empathy for these. I have been in that place and besides it is cold winter. I am much more an Easter person. I am quicker to shout the spring has come and summer is upon us than I am to sing of cold December flying away.
We do not know Christmas was in cold December and the truth is a Palestinian winter is hardly cold by our Midwestern standard. Still it is appropriate that it is during this time we should celebrate the day, for it is the time of year of cold and darkness, and for too many the time of despair and the absence of company.
Christmas is really their story and it is their hope.
It was hardly an ordinary birth. We know the story with its barnyard, young mother, and lowly field hands. But they were hardly the only lowly ones. God himself did not abhor the womb of a woman and was content with straw rather than a throne.
And of course there were the angels. They too did not keep company in heaven, but came to the lowly earth to talk to lowly men. There was even a star, but it did not behave much like one, moving across the horizon of the backwater of the world, rather than keeping its proper place with the heavenly host.
“Tonight is the night”….we say that at Easter. “Tonight is the night earth and heaven is wed.” We say that too. But before there was an Easter, there was Christmas. We have turned it into all those lovely things to drive away the gloom of winter, but before it was any of this, it was lowly people encountering heaven. It was these, but it was also a star, some angels, and God himself who drew close to these to be their companion. And it was a young woman of little regard that became the conduit between the place of the Divine and every lowly place on the frail earth.
Tonight was a night to be in the company of others. In a pressed suit I wished a Merry Christmas to men similarly dressed and to women in their Victorian like Christmas dresses. None of us could be mistaken for Mary and Joseph. But all of us should, for Mary brought with her, our companionship with the Divine and Joseph was the companion of Mary. Such terrific callings! What would it cost us to be their reflection if only in a simple way, especially as we are to be Christ to one another?
Certainly less than it did Mary and Joseph who on a night in Bethlehem kept company with the divine, but also with the lowly children of men. One day kings would come following the dancing star and one day 2 billion people would call themselves by the name of Mary’s boy child, but on the first night, there was the lowly. It was these that the holy family kept in their company.
This is our calling….to be with these. It is not that we are to negate the time with family or our closest friends or to enjoy the cheer of the season for these things are the outward effects and signs of inward joy. And it is that joy, we must bring to the world, for it is at its heart the joy of our salvation made real in heaven, but is reflected on earth in our companionship with others.
It cannot cost us very much to do this, for the bond of human friendship really demands little of us. We would not even have to be that way to very many. If everyone who called on the name of Christ could be this way to one other, “the gravity of the words of the Christmas story would set the world on fire.”
But the world is harsh. We know this. The world has too many troubles. To think it can be brought joy is foolishness and even scandal. But is the foolishness any greater than believing that salvation could reside in the round belly of a teenage girl? Is it any more scandal than a man who likely gave up his reputation and spurned the law should take up companionship with this woman of little esteem?
We are not called to be Mary and Joseph. No one else could possess Mary’s gift, though we are all bound to companionship with the Divine in at least some small way. And not many can be Joseph safeguarding the life of his closest friend whom the world sees as deserving of being “put away” and risking his life for a child to whom he has no blood relationship, though we can all be a friend in a small way to one that the world holds in little regard. We cannot be either of these beautiful people, but we can be someone’s Mary or Joseph or if not such as these, at least someone’s angel or star. But we will have to bend low to the earth or stay close to the horizon and find ourselves in the lowliest places with the lowliest people. If enough people do this, the entire world will know Christmas and heaven will again cast its reflection on earth.