by Rev. Keven Fletcher
One of the highlights of the Middle School Carol Service is the collection of reflections that the students offer on the nativity story. This year’s Grade 8 writing team was Jenny Hawes, Emma Laprise, Hannah Lincoln, Clara MacKenzie, Jane Pirie, Olivia Sorley and Claire Williams. After many lunch hours of work, along with fairly endless emails, they offered these four messages. We hope that they inspire your thoughts about this season.
First Reading: Mary (reflection before reading Luke 1:26-38; 47-55)
Tonight we’ll share four readings about the birth of Jesus.
The first one tells about Mary being visited by an angel,
who says that she’s going to have a child,
an inspiring child.
Visits from angels don’t happen every day
and angels are neither cute nor cuddly.
In the bible, angels are God’s warriors
There’s a reason why they always start their messages with
Be Not Afraid.
They are scary!
So, pretty astonishing that Mary actually questions the angel.
Listen for it. She asks, “How can this be?’’
Only when she gets her answer,
a strange one, for sure…
Only when she gets her answer
does she agree to walk this particular path with God.
And when she talks about it with her cousin Elizabeth,
her words are filled with excitement
“My soul magnifies the Lord.
God has looked with favour on my lowliness.
The Mighty has done great things for me.”
And Mary sees the whole world turning upside down.
“The Lord has scattered the proud in their thoughts
and brought down the powerful from their thrones
The Lord has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.”
Wow. Powerful stuff.
Which makes us think about what needs to turn upside down in our world.
We think of poverty in Africa; of mud huts and women carrying water.
It should end. They should be filled with good things.
And wars like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq,
the powerful need to shift their thinking.
And what about racism, all the isms, all the stereotypes.
Sometimes we get carried away with our pride.
It becomes too much. People go overboard.
Wouldn’t it be great if these aspects of our world were turned on their heads?
What would happen if, like Mary, we suddenly found hope.
Maybe hope in our leaders, hope in ourselves
hope that we could stand up, share ideas and join together to make a difference.
If that were to happen, I wonder,
What song would we sing?
Second Reading: Joseph (reflection before reading Matthew 1:18-24)
This reading tells about Joseph preparing to leave Mary
until an angel visits him in a dream.
We wondered, why in a dream?
Why not in person?
And it sounds like this is the first time
that Joseph hears that the child will be extraordinary
that the circumstances are extraordinary.
Why didn’t Mary tell him?
Tell him what.
“Guess what, I’ve seen an angel.”
“Guess what, I’m giving birth to a king, a saviour.”
“No, better, I’m giving birth to the son of God.”
Right. Like he’d believe her.
Everyone would think she was crazy.
Flying pigs. Dancing donkeys. Talking cows. Crazy
Before the dream, Joseph knew what to do.
He’s a good guy; nice guy. Solid.
Instead of humiliation and possible stoning,
he plans to end their engagement, quietly.
It’s the right thing to do.
But then the dream.
He could of dismissed it; thought it silly
but no, he changes his plan; he changes direction.
It’s the more right thing to do.
The better path to take.
It’s kind of like what happens,
when we think we’re on the right path
mad at a friend and ignoring them so there’s no more trouble
or hearing a rumour and passing it on to warn others.
We think it’s the right thing to do.
Then we realize that there’s a better way to handle the situation;
a more right thing to do:
that maybe there’s more going on than we know.
So we talk it out; listen; cooperate.
Change our mind, road less travelled, a better path.
Third Reflection: Shepherds (reflection before reading Luke 2:1-18)
The next reading tells about the angel appearing to the shepherds
and the shepherds arriving at the stable
where they find Mary, Joseph and the newborn, Jesus.
Think about that scene, but not like it’s a fairy tale.
Think about it like actual people went through this.
We like to imagine the stable as being warm and welcome and happy,
but it was probably cold and dark.
And the parents would have been stressed
about their child’s first bed being a manger
And what is a manger? It’s a wooden box that animals eat out of.
Kind of disgusting, unhygienic, scratchy.
So the parents would have been stressed about that
and about not having money
and about how they would raise this child
who would become a great person.
Imagine how encouraging it would have been for them
when the shepherds arrived.
How amazed Mary and Joseph would have been
with the shepherds’ talk of angels and heavenly choirs
How that news would have helped to set their minds at ease.
The moment was so much bigger than the three of them.
And yet so close that Mary would ponder it in her heart.
And what about those shepherds, sitting in their fields:
not very comfortable, not very important.
We imagine them being different ages: some old, some young.
Then, voices from the sky.
Scary stuff. At first, they’re terrified.
Do not be afraid. Right.
Is this a trick? Is it a prank?
No. Listen. It’s good stuff. The shepherds warm up to the idea:
“Good news of great joy for all people.”
They think, not just for the rich; not just for the powerful
Good news, even for us.
Suddenly, there is singing.
Sounds like opera. Or does it sound like rap?
Either way, Oh my gosh, so amazing.
And then the question, should we go?
Can we leave the sheep? Should we go?
Even us? Even now?
Fourth Reading: Magi (reflection after reading Matthew 2:1-12 (selected))
In this reading, magi, wise men from the east, astrologers, actually…
Magi from the east follow a star, making their way to Jesus
who is now in a house; no longer in a stable.
They meet King Herod, who wants the child dead,
but plays along so that the magi can find the child for him.
We don’t like how this reading begins,
a secretive, selfish king.
Too lazy to find Jesus himself.
So he lies to manipulate strangers
who want nothing more than to celebrate an important birth
marked by a star.
The star outshines the rest of the sky,
brighter than the others.
Its glow is everywhere, but especially on one spot.
When they arrive at the house where Jesus and Mary are staying,
the wise men are overcome with joy.
They offer gifts.
What’s a baby going to do with frankincense?
The gifts are generous, but not useful.
there must be more to them than meets the eye.
Afterwards, another dream.
We like the dreams.
In the dream, the wise men take a different path for the journey home;
a path that avoids King Herod.
Which makes us wonder, now that the readings are over,
what path will we take when we leave tonight?
In the story, Mary agrees to walk a very unexpected path.
Because of a dream, Joseph changes his mind and finds a better way forward.
The Shepherds hear angels and change their plans.
The magi rejoice and go home by a different road.
Perhaps for us, having heard this story tonight;
perhaps we’ll also leave by a path that we didn’t anticipate
a path that is more thankful for what we have.
a path that isn’t tied up in buying and selling
a path where we treat others as we’d treat ourselves
loving others, regardless of whether they’re nice to us or not.
When you leave, take the joy and hope that runs through this story.
Take it as your own, to be shared with others.
Because what difference does this night make?
what difference does our path make?
It changes everything.
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