Read: Luke 2:8-12, 15-18
Reflect: Each Advent in San Juan Bautista, California a troupe of players stages a medieval mystery cycle play in the old mission church. A few years ago, my husband and I traveled there to see “La Pastorela,” the story of shepherds who’ve heard the good news of the Christ child’s birth and are hastening to see him.
Along their way, they are beset by temptations – efforts by cleverly disguised devils who try to turn them from their quest. Clamorous and coercive, the devils throw the shepherds into confusion. Anger, envy, greed, gluttony, pride – the lot – raise their ugly heads and wreak havoc. Time and again it seems evil will succeed in stopping the shepherds’ progress.
Angels, who are present in the wings, do not interfere. Quietly, serenely, they draw near to the shepherds, waiting for them to recognize they’ve been deceived. Ever so softly, in complete freedom and without compulsion, the shepherds regain their senses and continue on their way to see the baby Jesus.
At first I was puzzled that the angels did not do more. Wouldn’t God’s messengers fight evil to defend those who seek God? I’ve come to think there’s wisdom in the play. God does not fight evil on its own terms. He does not coerce anyone. His power is made perfect in weakness. And so, he comes to us as a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Let us turn our hearts to him, and hasten on our way to worship and serve him.
This little babe, so few days old, is come to rifle Satan’s fold.
All hell doth at his presence quake, though he himself for cold do shake. For in this weak, unarmed wise the gates of hell he will surprise….My soul with Christ join thou in fight; stick to the tents that he hath pight. Within his crib is surest ward. This little babe will be thy guard. If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly boy!
(Benjamin Britten, A Ceremony of Carols)
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Discuss: How are you trying to draw close to Jesus this Christmas? Do you ever experience interference when you are trying to draw close to him? What helps you overcome the interference?
Pray: Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (from Daily Devotions in The Book of Common Prayer)
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