This telling of the Christmas Story comes at just the right moment. When we need to see God present in an unprecedented time, in less than ideal circumstances, but still made known to those who want to see him.
This passage starts with “A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world be enrolled” which starts Mary and Joseph on a journey… This year, “the whole world was enrolled” not in a census but in a global pandemic where nothing is as expected and our lives have had to adjust in unforeseen ways.
And this journey may have been difficult for you….perhaps, with jobs, family members, canceled vacations or rescheduled celebrations ...even simple things made difficult, like masked trips to the grocery store. We were signed up together, the whole word, whether we liked it or not.
Through it all we have gone about our days, making changes when needed... Adapting to circumstances as they come, much like Mary and Joseph.
But, this Christmas poses a unique challenge. At this most joyous time of the year, where is Christ present to us?
This passage calls us to pay attention to God in our midst, even in the less than ideal moments. In this Gospel found in Luke, the story of the incarnation is told quickly. The passage says:
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger
That’s it. A few short lines for the birth of Christ. An epic moment that goes by so quickly it could have been missed.
But in that moment, Christ is born.
Our savior arrives tucked away in manger, not an extravagant birth fit for a king, but a simple birth in a stable. A Miraculous moment hidden in the ordinary. Missed by so many…
But, away in the field something else unexpected was happening.
Shepherds going about their work on a seemingly average night had an amazing visitor, an angel appeared proclaiming to them good news of great joy. That Christ was born!
In that moment, the glory of the Lord showed around them… and they were joined by a multitude of heavenly hosts that joined in singing about the beauty that has just entered the world.
This moment awakens the shepherds to the miraculous happening in a seemingly average night. The sacred hidden in the ordinary. It opened their eyes and it called them to attention that the glory of God was there and they may overlook it, but that should not go unnoticed.
It points them to God right in their midst.
This Christmas may need to be a simpler time than ones in the past, but it is filled with joy and hope, still. We may not have the extravagant gifts, or packed family rooms, or even the ease of being together with the ones we love in the way we were before. But, when less is given, we find that the smallest moments are truly the most valuable.
A Christmas where we are grateful for the little blessings, like a stable with a manager to stay for the night.
But, in these seemingly simple moments, let us not miss the miraculous in our midst. The small moment when the GLORY OF GOD is around us and we are awakened to the miraculous hidden in the ordinary. A moment filled with deep peace and great joy.
That even in these mundane moments God can be birthing something Good in our lives. Those around us may not notice it, but we don’t want to miss.
….And we too may have angels in our home, in our work, or in our community that call us to attention. For me, it's my nieces tugging in my shirt calling me to play a game of Charades. People who point us to the glory of God already with us. Moments that should not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Short and seemingly simply epic moments in our lives.
It reveals to us Emmanuel “God is with us.” Always even in moments when we can fail to notice just how near he is….
What is that moment for you today? That monumental moment that goes by so quickly that it could be missed. It could be baking cookies with a niece or nephew, spending time on a digital call with a family member or friend from afar, or even the joy of a simple moment of rest in a whirlwind of a year.
Take a moment to be aware of the moments in your life when it comes and don’t miss it! The moment when the Glory of God shows around you and you need to pay attention to Christ present so that you can truly rejoice in him.
In this moment, the extraordinary is hidden in the ordinary. It allows us to see the great joy of God because Christ is present with us. In a year when we need it most. He brings good news of Great joy that will be for all people. Of Emmanuel, a God with us who will never leave. A Christ that came to save us all.
Kayla August is a doctoral student at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology and Education with a focus on preaching. She desires to use preaching to impact religious education by inspiring Catholics to deepen their encounters with scripture, tradition, and how God plays an active role in our daily lives. As a lay woman in the Church, Kayla makes a point to preach whenever and wherever she can. She is not only a proud contributor to the voices found on Catholicwomenpreach.org, but she has also preached in a variety of places including McGrath’s Institute for Church Life Saturday with the Saints at Notre Dame, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York's 7 Last Words of Christ prayer service on Good Friday, and a variety of churches, youth gatherings, and universities across the U.S.
Her hope as a laywoman is to use preaching to revolutionize the Catholic Church by bringing preaching into nontraditional arenas (social media, podcasts, television, etc.) as a way to reawaken faith and to re-engage an increasingly under-catechized church. Her interest in formation is rooted in her experiences of living and working in young adult faith formation as a University Ministry Intern at Loyola University of New Orleans as well as her professional work as the Assistant Director of Evangelization in the University of Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry department and as the Rector of Lyons Hall. She hopes that through preaching, she can help to enliven the youth and young adult Catholic communities and help to inspire marginalized voices—like her own—in the Catholic faith to play an active role in the Church. She plans to use her education to lift-up and empower these voices that are often overlooked in our church and in our world. She dreams of a Church truly alive with Christ, and she believes her vocation is working toward making that Church a daily reality!
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