On the first day of each week of Advent, Seeing the Word will post an illumination paired with an audio reading of the associated Scripture passage. The subsequent days will feature one of the six movements of visio divina: Listening, Meditating, Seeing, Praying, Contemplating, and Becoming Christ-like.
WEEK FOUR•DAY TWO
The Birth of Christ
This story is so familiar that it requires effort to hear it with fresh ears. Beautiful nativity scenes and Christmas card images automatically jump to mind. Because of this familiarity, we risk missing the real impact of the story—what it means for the divine Son of God to put on flesh and enter humanity. Our first picture of Jesus is as this tiny baby, and it is tempting to want to leave him there. In the innocence and familiarity of the account of this event, we may forget that if one is born, one also will die.
We instinctively know that the baby Jesus is the main character. Yet all the participants get equal billing—Joseph, Mary, the angels, the shepherds. We even find ourselves in the cast of characters as this good news of great joy is for everyone, including us. Just as “all the world” is taxed, the news the angel brings is for “all the people.”
We are also reminded that God is in charge; he works even through corrupt governments who disrupt people’s lives just to get their taxes. The Emperor’s decree brings the birth of the Messiah to the town of Bethlehem, fulfilling scripture. God works through the haughty and the humble alike. We can only imagine the discomfort of Mary as she makes this long trek while expecting a child. This reminds us that when we obey God’s calling, we are not promised an easy journey. But we are promised that everything has meaning and purpose according to God’s will.
Laurie E. Neill is a pastor at First Lutheran Church in Fargo, ND. She graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN in 2012. Prior to ordination, she worked as a lay pastor at The Lutheran Church of Christ the King in Moorhead, MN. She became “hooked” on The Saint John’s Bible during the Praying with Imagination retreat this past summer.