Luke 2:36-40 – And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
It is the 6th Day of the Octave of Christmas and our readings continue to show us how to respond to the birth of the Christ Child. When Anna saw Jesus, she didn’t wait until the temple cleared of people who might think she was a crazy old woman. She immediately gave thanks to God. And then she proclaimed to everyone who would listen that the long- awaited Messiah had arrived.
We are blessed beyond our imaginings because we no longer must wait for the Messiah. We have been born into an age when he has already lived and died and lived again. We live in the age since he ascended into heaven for us. We have the presence of God the Holy Spirit in our very hearts. What is our response upon seeing him in the manger?
When I ask that question there are too many answers. I should feed the hungry, and clothe the poor. I should care for the widow and the orphan perhaps by teaching them or even bringing them into my home. What about making homes for the homeless? I should tend to the sick and visit the lonely and those in prison. Should I teach religious education or Bible study for the women in my parish? Maybe I should give glory as a choir member or in the Altar Society. I could visit nursing homes or clean the yards of the elderly. Perhaps I am to comfort the dying or those who have lost loved ones. I could be a social worker or counselor for the parish or work in a soup kitchen or crisis pregnancy center. I could write stories that help people know Jesus. It’s dizzying to think there are so many ways I could serve this Child, many of which I would be quite good at. There is one thing I know for sure: I can’t do it all.
We want to live the reality of man reconciled to God through the life, death and resurrection of his only Son. We want the whole world to know! But how can we decide our part?
Try this: Close your eyes and imagine a night sky black as ink, twinkling with billions of stars. One huge Star is so bright it blinds the naked eye. The Star beams onto a cave where a manger filled with hay holds a tiny baby boy, wrapped tightly in cloths. See yourself standing just inside the cave opening, hands clasped in front of you, head slightly bowed but still lifted enough to witness this greatest event in the history of all creation. The Baby’s breath puffs through tiny lips as he sleeps peacefully. Leaning beside him is his weary, young mother. Regardless of her evident exhaustion, her face is bright. She won’t let her heavy eyelids close. Instead, she keeps them fastened in awe at the Child she has just delivered. Squatting by her head, arms resting on his knees, is an older man with a tired
face, but whose eyes are lit in amazement as they, too, are not permitted to close. There is not sound or movement in the cave for even the animals sense something mighty has just occurred. Keep your eyes closed. Can you breathe in the scents of animals, and fresh hay, and even the Infant? Do your ears tingle in the silence? Is your heart pounding harder? Do you even feel a bit faint?
And now pray, “Lord, God Almighty, through the life, death and resurrection of this Child, your only Son, you have redeemed me of my sins and offenses against you and you have reconciled me to you. I want to tell the world of your great love through my life. I want to show the world who you are. There are so many ways, it’s hard to decide. But I know just as you have created each of us individually, you also have a unique task for each. I ask you now, in the quietness of my heart, and as I silence my own thoughts, to show me how you would like me to tell the world that Love was born this day. Show me how you would have me live your Light. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
And then wait. No more words. Just wait. If the first time you imagine that first Christmas night and recite this prayer, or one similar, there seems to be no response, do not fret. Pray it again tomorrow. And again, if need be. Sometimes our self is in the way of hearing and it takes a good amount of emptying our thoughts in order to hear.
But keep this in mind: what you perceive as no answer may actually be God saying, “Be a woman who loves me. Live my Love as a daughter or sister, a friend or co-worker, a wife, a mother. Just as you already are.”
Give thanks to God for he knows the best way for each of us to shout to the world this Christmas and everyday: Love was born on Christmas Day!