Three meditations from tonight's Christmas Eve service. (Harp music begins at 6:45pm) you
We use our senses in ways we take for granted. (?)
Fill in the blank, I have a splitting _______, Oh my aching _______,
Ouch, I stubbed my ______, I have a sore ___________,
I broke my ______ ( you fill in the broken part)
We need to listen with our senses beyond our typical aches and pains if we are to recognize the sign the prophet spoke of. Otherwise there could be signs, angels, the birthing of new life all around us, and we will MISS it.
God could be (and likely is) working right now in some part of your life, but your senses have been dulled.
Maybe the music or traffic is too loud for us to HEAR, we get engrossed in TV and don’t SEE what is happening in the neighborhood.
Maybe fast food has dulled our taste buds,
car exhaust has ruined the good scents of life, and
all those aches and pains have left us unable to FEEL deep into our souls.
Tonight I invite you pay attention to your GOD-given SENSEs. These are the same 5 senses we always have, but they are fine-tuned in those who really HEAR what GOD has to say.
We will enter this story as if it was a Hollywood musical full of sights and sounds to delight. Maybe like my favorite movie, ‘White Christmas’. …(Remember that movie? people falling in love in a matter of a week. Dreams become real and questions result in a chorus of songs and some very capable dancing.)
We need to sharpen our God-sense so we can delight in tonight story. We need to listen with the ear of our heart to hear a prophet’s words speak about events thousands of years in the future .. and yet tonight, we can SEE them.
We will feel our way into this most favorite of stories and answer some of these questions:
What did Joseph hear in his dream?
Who did the innkeeper see at the door?
What did Mary smell out in the stable?
What did Jesus feel when he was born?
and we will even pay attention to what we TASTE when we eat the communion meal.
Each sense will invite us into the story to hear something new, feel a deeper connection to God’s message or maybe we will even see what they saw. . hear what they heard.
Let the passages suggest songs to you as if you were writing a musical. Picture the scenes in your head the way you would paint them. Design the play or script in a modern form. Imagine the clay in your hands as you Sculpt Mary holding the baby Jesus.
We can Let our imaginations explore each situation behind the familiar words. Because this story is more than the simple scenes we usually act out.
A deeper look will involve noticing
how devastating the visit from God’s messenger must have been for Joseph,
how shocking for Mary to be overcome with God’s spirit
and how life-changing for both of them to go from an assumed normal life…like we all have for our lives at some point…to God’s plan,
which, in their case, was not what ANYONE intended, expected or maybe wanted.
and for some it couldn’t even be believed. . .
What WE believe about this story won’t be as important as what we hear, see, taste, smell, and touch tonight.
Because I am sure that we too will receive a Divine message, like the one the angels sang.
Do you hear what I hear? …. it’s a voice..high above the trees.
. . . .
Tonight on this most special of all nights, listen, look, touch, smell, taste and really FEEL your way into this story. . . .
of God with us.. Immanuel.
Seeing and Tasting
The really memorable stories about Jesus involve the senses. Put yourself in Simon’s house with Jesus. A woman comes in with an alabaster jar of perfume and pours it all on Jesus head in an anointing ritual with which we are UNfamiliar.
I’m sure this was oil based perfume because there are numerous stories of people being anointed with oil. Kings - or those chosen to be a king, were anointed with oil. And we put later pieces of Jesus’ story together to realize this anointing also foreshadows his death.
In this story people are overwhelmed. Those stuck, unable to get past their thoughts — are outraged at the waste.
“It cost too much to pour out!”
Where do you find yourself in this story?
Tonight, Can we forget our bottom line sensibilities and just smell the perfume? It’s so rich you can taste it in the back of your throat..it’s so sweet.
. . .
Smelling is the first step to tasting. I did a coffee tasting once. The coffee was black of course and very dark. First we
Cupped our hands around the coffee and inhaled deeply.
Then we slurped equal amounts of coffee and air into our mouths…sounds funny…
We pay attention to where the coffee ‘hits’ the tongue. You can identify the individual taste buds when you pay attention like this.
Then we described the taste - based on all these observations.
You have to slow down to taste coffee this way. It’s not the way I often drink my first cup..gulping it down to get the caffeine into my system as fast as possible.
Slowing down is counter-cultural for most of us (in the USA).
We hear about slowing down, especially in advent …maybe because the events of Christmas are just TOO much to believe when we try to engage them all together.
We get overwhelmed, so we stay in our unemotional heads, looking for the facts. Or maybe we are so regimented from organizing Christmas plans, that we haven’t found a way to hear the story this year, to taste the spices of Christmastime or to see Jesus as a baby born just like us.
When we focus on one sense at a time we have to slow down.
Jesus knew his life-story would be too much for the disciples to understand, as many times as he tried to tell them. So he did two things:
He knelt down on the floor and touched them with water and a towel. His own hands reached out to their feet and they felt him wash them. . slowly, simply, letting the water flow over the dry skin, watching the water darken as the dirt washed off, feeling the towel in Jesus’ hands, drying each foot in turn.
Then after washing his hands, he returned to the table and gave them something to taste. Simple, ordinary food, that was already before them.
Everyday bread, a symbol to remind them that Divine Love is found in everyday life.
Ordinary wine reminding them of the richness in their lives when he is part of them.
Symbols for us too,
the sweet taste of the grape. Will it be warm or cold? What does it tell you about Jesus as you symbolically invite him in again?
Bread to taste..how will it go down, will it be crumbly, or moist & chewy? Will you BREAK it or BITE it?
What message will God send YOU with the symbol of God’s son?
How will YOU eat the symbol of Jesus tonight?. . .Immanuel;
God IS WITH us!
Smelling and Touching
A friend and I used to say that all we wanted from God was a neon sign to point us in the right direction. The shepherds got the first-century equivalent, an ANGEL and the full complement of Heavenly Host!
They couldn’t miss it, or could they? I’ve passed many a neon sign without notice. I once walked past newly installed 5 foot long decorative stones placed outside my camp office..and didn’t see them.
It takes a lot to get thru sometimes. Perhaps smells, at least BAD smells get to us the quickest. There is no doubt that something is real when it smells bad.
Good smells might be deceiving. There are cookie-scented candles, but they don’t make real-stable scents in candle form. Who would buy THOSE smells?
Rather than getting stuck in the details of the story of Jesus’ birth, or the lack of details (which we tend to fill in from movies and such) tell me what sense has touched you the most tonight?
What is YOUR entrance into the story?
. . .
What we see, smell, hear, and taste is what really touches us, where it counts. Not the details, but the truth.
Did it really happen that way? or a different question..
Is it true?
And did it happen? Iona Community
And did it happen that in a stable long ago, a weary couple,
who no one wanted to know,
should choose a manger,
in spite of the danger,
to hold and hallow the Lord below?
And did it happen that in the stillness of the night, the woman labored to let God see the light,
and bathed and dressed him, …breastfed and blessed him,
The Word incarnate whose time was right?
And did it happen that this news of this first reached the poor,
compelled by angels to tiptoe to the door
and see no trappings,
just linen wrappings,
A baby for certain and God for sure?
And did it happen that all of this was meant to be(?),
That God from a distance should choose to be set free
and show uniqueness
transformed in weakness,
that I might touch him and …he touch me? (1)
Scripture Luke 2:19-20
19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. 20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.
1 Iona Community Cloth for the Cradle (Chicago:GIA,2000) 26