December 27, 2020 – Lessons and Carols – Christmas Reflection by The Rt. Rev. Donald Phillips

   by Yanna Courtney

If what we have just experienced was a stage play, or a movie, it could be entitled “Jesus of Nazareth: My Early Life.”  What we are experiencing today, in one sense, is not at all unique.  Often today, after a much-loved family member dies, at the funeral of their celebration of his or her life, either before the service or perhaps at a post-service reception, there is often a video made of significant pieces of their life.  Or perhaps at a special milestone birthday or life achievement of an individual, there’ll be a similar video-recounting of the significant pieces of the person’s life.  And what is the impact of reliving this person’s life experience?  We who watch it become bound together.  We become bound to that person, and with everyone else present we also are united – experiencing the same thing.  We all treasure our own experience of that person but we still become one with each other as we relive all that we share in this one’s life.  This is what we’re doing today even if we are physically separated from each other.

And this is not some ‘virtual’ story.  It’s not a kind of idealistic dream that unites us.  This is real life, lived in our real world!  Think for a moment – a young couple, Joseph and Mary, dealing with the shame and possible rejection from the community for the surprise of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; Joseph and a very pregnant Mary having to obey the commands of a dictatorship government to travel and be counted in a census; common everyday labourers, shepherds in this case, receiving a revelation from God that’s normally reserved for prophets, priests and kings; strange and prophetic words spoken over the newborn child of simple peasant folk.  And there’s international intrigue and danger as foreign dignitaries (the Magi) meddle in domestic affairs and threaten the stability of a local ruler’s power.  Sadly, there is a local case of genocide as a dictator attempts to protect his regime – the young family having to flee as refugees to a foreign land.  These are things we read about, or watch, in newspapers and social media.  Yet, we’re able to envelop all of these incidents with beautiful, melodic carols.  And we can do that because this life, this “light of the world”, has ultimately conquered everything that would destroy us or God’s world, and has initiated God’s reign, however much it sometimes appears veiled.

This life has united us with God and each other now, and for all eternity.  So keep this vignette, of lessons and carols of Christ coming to us, fresh in your mind and in your life, and bring it to mind every time you encounter another person – whether a family member, a friend, your neighbour, a stranger, or someone wandering on a city street.  This person, too, is a member of your family in Jesus Christ.  This person, too, has been given the gift of God’s son – just like you and me.  Amen.