"If we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing, even as it sustains us in all things, then we can face all things with courage and tenderness, and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love." Jim Finley
Christmas 2021 may well be a quiet season for many of us, once again. It may prove to be remembered more for its simplicity, and its surrounding context of widespread anxiety and global concerns, rather than for its holiday glitter and festivity.
Perhaps this may allow us to come a little closer to the uncertainties of the first Christmas, and to the wisdom that contemplative practitioner and psychotherapist Jim Finley proposes: love is everywhere in the universe, overtly protecting us from nothing, and obliquely upholding us in everything.
In this lifetime, and in our particular generation, we clearly have no guarantees of protection or healing from powerful viruses; no guarantees of protection from intense weather events; no guarantees of protection from political unrest, financial inequity, and social and economic uncertainty. All we have is the choice of how we respond.
Long ago, Joseph must have been immensely grounded in love, to have the courage to respond peacefully to the rumours, objections, and potential lifelong disgrace attached to his name and family life.
Joseph must have been immensely grounded in love, to have the tenderness, in the face of injustice, to place a circle of silent protection around Mary and the child that he knew was not his own, but would become his own by an act of choice and commitment on his part.
Mary must have been immensely grounded in the absolute love of God, to believe that her teenage pregnancy and ostensibly insignificant life was actually a participation in the healing of the cosmos and the salvation of humankind.
Contemporary poet and hymnwriter Anna Briggs uses her imagination to capture this pathos in a haunting tone, where she imagines what Mary might have silently and quietly sung to Jesus during pregnancy, at the time of birth, and beyond, in her lullaby Stay, My Child, My Body Sharing, including a verse of appreciation for the otherwise obscure role of Joseph:
“Sleep, my child, for love surrounds us; we have not been left alone. Though disgrace and shame may hound us, Joseph stays and shields his own.” Anglican Common Praise (1998), # 124 ~ Anna Briggs
You may care to enjoy our own local Parksville Log Church version of Stay, My Child on our website, as one of the daily musical video offerings on Alli’s Advent Calendar : https://www.oneopencircle.org/events/calendar
Mary is the one who is able to hold together and “treasure up” (Luke 2.19) the mystery of her own life’s joys and sorrows, the mystery of being sustained with hope and love in the midst of unavoidable social scandal and palpable political danger.
So here is a sacred question for us all to ponder daily this coming year. How well are we grounded in “the absolute love of God”?
And if you prefer a call-to-action, here is a daily “to-do” list! It’s my simple three-fold wish and prayer for you and yours this Christmas time, holiday season, and for the coming year. One for each member of the holy family:
1) Each evening, speak quietly to yourself, as if you were talking to the infant Jesus: “sleep well, my child, for Absolute Love surrounds us”
2) Each night, open yourself to dream the dreams of Joseph: “we can face all things with courage and tenderness”
3) Each morning, rise into the inner treasure of Mary’s heart: “God, who protects us from nothing, is sustaining us in all things”
In living wisely into the day-to-day uncertainties of the coming year of 2022, I trust that if we have one daily question to ponder, and three simple actions to engage with, that will be challenge and comfort enough for all of us! Your sincere friend, priest, and pastor,
The Rev. Andrew Twiddy
atwiddy [at] OneOpenCircle.org