An image – an icon – of the Mother Mary and the Child Jesus – may seem simply art, displayed in a museum, floating in a strange context of white walls, spot lighting, hushed voices … and the occasional photographer’s snap. A lot more is going on, though – even in museums. For icons are images that function as windows to the sacred, entryways into the eternal. And so they depict figures and scenes most likely to help us move out of the time and space we currently occupy and deeper in and further on into the domain of God.
And yet these very windows turn us back – into the world where the eternal Word took on flesh and dwelled among us. And this is good news - the good news – the news that humanity and creation are so beloved by the Holy One that his only Son came to us in human form to bring us into full, right, and loving relationship with God. And Mary, blessed Mother, was there to receive him and give him birth, nurture him, and mourn him – and to greet him anew in resurrected Life.
Mary’s story begins with a visit from the angel – the messenger of God – who brings to this young woman unexpected news. Good news! Says the Angel. And as herald proclaims the arrival of a greater power than any imperial herald could ever announce.
You (who have never known a man) are to conceive and bear a son – and he will be named after Joshua, the deliverer of his people. This child will be more than mortal witness can bear – for he will carry upon his back the burden of all our faults, our frailties, our betrayals, our false confidences, our little tricks and major crimes, our sins.
He will save us from the powers that be – great or small – that conceive of themselves as the rightful organizers and commanders of this world’s chaos. He will come to us, some day, in great power. But that will be the sequel. The victory is here: in the birth of a baby, the walk of a man among people of village and town, the teaching of a rabbi in Temple and synagogue, the stooped stumble of a condemned prisoner, the last breath given over to a prayer of forgiveness, and then – but that is another story of Mary.
Today, this month, this season of Christmas, from the Eve of pageant and carol, the quiet morning of the breaking-in of the New Day, through the days leading to the Epiphany of the magi and on to the presentation of our Lord in the Temple (Candlemas), we gather to celebrate the arrival of the great good news – God is with us.
Shepherds, marginal people, dwellers on the edge of society, are drawn into town. They are the ones who bring Mary the revelation of her child’s meaning and purpose. It is not an ordinary child: God is with us – incarnate in this infant boy. What tentative, quiet beginning is this, the Messiah arriving among us, swaddled and lain in a manger.
Later other ‘greater’ visitors will arrive – from beyond the borders of empire. They too will herald the mystery – and yet the mystery is right in front of us: a child.
So the good news is embodied and revealed: God is with us. God loves us - so much as to send his own Son. Not to take us out of the world to some fleshless place, some eternity of disembodied intellect. To take us where we are and bring us into his kingdom here and now. The new order of the ages now begins – and it begins with a child.
And this is Glory to God in the highest – and Peace on Earth.
It’s good news for everybody. God does bless us, every one.
Come join us at St. Alban’s in the celebrations of the season.
Christmas Eve 4:00 p.m., Family Eucharist – Children’s Pageant
Christmas Eve 10:00 p.m., Festive Eucharist – Lessons & Carols
Christmas Day 10:30 a.m., Carols & Communion
Sundays in January 2012 - 8:00 & 10:30 a.m., Holy Eucharist
Sunday, January 1 –The Feast of the Holy Name
Sunday, January 8 – Epiphany Sunday (The Visit of the Magi)
Sunday, January 29 – The Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas)
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and glorified to the ends of the earth. Amen.
St. Alban's Episcopal Church, 21405 - 82nd Place West, Edmonds, WA 98026
Telephone: (425) 778-0371 Email: StAlbansEdmonds@gmail.com Website: http://stalbansedmonds.org