And God Came Down on Christmas Night…

This is a post by Sarah Nolan and was originally posted on the The Abundant Table Blog.  The Abundant Table and YAC Blog editor Sarah Holst are working jointly to create resources that support an Earth-to-Altar movement to Localize the Liturgy. Sarah Nolan is the Director of Programs and Community Partnerships at the Abundant Table Farm Project.

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On the Solstice I joined Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries and friends for an evening of pause and reflection upon the turning of the seasons and the welcoming of winter. Ched Myers reminded us of the importance of developing an attunement with the natural seasons (as opposed to consumer or cultural timelines). The Equinoxes and Solstices are gifts that invite us to take the time to connect with the created cosmos, and to connect with our own journeys and the different seasons we experience personally.

The same kind of alternative rhythm is found in the Christian Liturgical Calendar. Walking closely with the natural seasons, the Liturgical calendar also challenges us to go deeper into the cycles of life, and creates space for pause and attention. I am neither an expert in the church calendar, nor a purist in its practice, but am still significantly formed and guided by its seasons that call us communally and individually to both reflection and action.

For the past week, I have been pondering the relation between Advent and Christmas. I prefer Advent and Lent to Christmas and Easter, for example. I wonder whether this might have something to do with the fact that we humans live a majority of our lives in expectation (Advent) and suffering (Lent). We are constantly anticipating (and craving) the coming of the Divine to break into our hurting world. We spend more time talking about the coming of the Risen Christ or the Beloved Community rather than experiencing it. I think this may be why the Christmas and Easter seasons are so short. They serve as reminders that God’s radical love does break into our lives and communities… but often in momentary and unexpected ways.

God comes to us as the infant of a family suffering from displacement and forced migration. The great message of hope and deliverance is given to the nomadic (and likely dirty and exhausted) shepherds. It is a young girl with a complicated story who carries the salvation of the world in her womb.

 

A few years ago, a dear friend shared with me the chorus to Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

We live in a broken world, which is why we need Advent and Lent. However, it is in these cracks in the system, the places of both the creative and the mundane resistance, in which Christmas resides.

This Christmas season (liturgical, consumer), I am challenged to spend time recognizing and celebrating these “cracks” in order to see the light that is breaking in. We may never know what impact our daily work holds, the power of perseverance in the midst of adversity, or the moment when we will recognize God’s love in action. But when we do catch a glimpse, let us remember to let the light in and savor it.

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