The bible is a collection of stories and poems gathered into 66 books written by 40 authors over a span of 1500 years yet there are only two places in the bible that give traditionally what is known as the Christmas story – Matthew and Luke.
Let us consider Luke. We think this text is coming in the mid 80’s of the first century – 50 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Historically Judaism has almost fractured after the destruction of the temple and the massacre of the priesthood while the Pharisees, the elite of Judaism, have risen to the level of organizers. It is a period of massive profound disorientation – people wondering if there is a god, question if suffering has won, asking whether evil is in charge – literally in a basket going to hell.
Luke is the writer that people look to for the history of Jesus but I don’t believe he is only giving us history – I believe he is also giving us context and meaning. Luke opens his text by sharing who is governor and who is priest of the temple – the outer corrupt structure of government – a context sharing that these are terrible economic and leadership days. Luke frames it very early that he is not only going to speak about hope – he is going to speak a reality even though people will not agree that there is evidence of one. Luke speaks about the fact that regardless of whether you think you are at the end of you rope and there is no turn around in sight – keep going – keep believing.
By highlighting in the times that we must go forward we don’t have to turn our backs on our traditions, he opens by speaking about two visitations by the archangel Gabriel, the angel of perseverance and endurance – first to Zechariah and then to Mary. Zechariah ends up without a voice and Mary ends up blessed. Zechariah questions the angel and Mary takes Gabriel’s words to her heart, ponders them and accepts them with pure faith and utter belief and knowing of God’s promise. She asks for guidance as to what her part will be and for strength to carry her through. She doesn’t ask for any assurances or any details.
I ask you now – Which voice is louder in your heart today? Zechariah or Mary.
In those days is that Mary would have been banished from her family for going against their wishes and their plan – Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth – we know at this point that Mary is Jewish royalty and Joseph was descended from the King of David – they give up all of their sense of Jewish privilege by saying yes to God. They had everything to live for and in essence threw it away because she believed the promise.
There is a beautiful passage in Luke, referred to as Mary’s Song of Praise, a proclamation made in the depths of painful, chaotic days where scarcity rules. Mary does not pray for God to act – but she prays and gives thanks for the fact that God acted. She claims the promise understanding that the silence, the perseverance and resilience comes from knowing – not knowing the details – but having absolute faith and equanimity. It is powerful that the writer wants us to have this same sense of knowing – deep sense that the promise is real and we should trust it.
As the birth approaches – Joseph and Mary travel – teenagers, displaced, without family – another image of being cast out of privilege – a lonely lowly journey – a highlight that you may not have all the perks of society when the promise comes true. The loss of privilege – the loss of comfort – all to be true to a new birth. When individuals read this story in the day it was written – it would have been clear in the message – that we all carry the Christ within us – the opportunity to leave it all behind and follow a divine path.
The baby was eventually born – in the lowest of low places – a place where the animals are. In the day – in Jewish tradition – being unclean was a huge deal. Everything in the day was about ceremonial cleanliness – being with animals along with a human being birthed would have shattered all the core values of the elite of the day. But regardless of the obstacles that presented themselves along the way – Mary knew the promise and nothing would shake her confidence in it. We are all Mary – those who have lost their social standing are now being named as bearers of the Christ – bringing with it assurity and comfort.
The angel then comes to the shepherds after the birth of Jesus to announce the birth in jubilation. In the day shepherds were a group of people dispossessed, people who have no privilege, removed from polite society for a variety of reasons. Sheep are unclean and therefore the shepherds are unclean and take on the smell of the sheep. This is where the angel goes to announce the birth – in the depths of night – pure darkness. Luke’s text is about the radiance being born in darkness – the only place that radiance can be born is in the depths of darkness. A message that the only place that the radiance can be born in us is in the place of our own shepherd where we feel so raw, we feel unworthy, where we may have lost our standing and our privilege before society – whatever that is – addictions, illness, shame, difficulties. This is where we find the beginning of the new radiance – in the darkness.
Regardless as to whether you feel you have made a mess of your life, whether you are carrying darkness or despair in and around with you, whether you have broken relationships around you, the stresses, or maybe the sense that you are wondering what is the point of anything – this is where it begins. You may not believe me and that is OK, but I want you to lean on my knowing and I want you to lean on the knowing of the child who was born 2000 years ago that the world stops to recognize once a year – that he will and can take it the rest of the way – this is where it begins.
The truth of the cosmos is that we appreciate light in the darkness – the radiance is in the deepest darkness. That is where it is birthed, that is where it begins to shine. Everyone of us carries a darkness – do not fear it – it is not evil – go there for that will be the place of the new radiance.
When Luke wrote his book – the people of the day would have had no reason for hope and even less reason to listen to Luke’s words and believe him. But he starts with a retelling of a story from their own tradition. A reminder of a story about a radiance being birthed in the darkness – a story of new possibilities. Mary is this incredible presence of knowing a positive future and if you know a positive future no matter what sheep shit you are going through today just keep going – this is not the end – this is the beginning.
See the talk ‘Finding Radiance in the Deepest Darkness’ here https://youtu.be/KORbfXNJVtU
Kevin T. Cahill is an award winning sales professional and consultant specializing in the art of managing change and achieving great results. As the founder of The Change Revolution, this international best selling author and speaker inspires men and women alike. As someone who has mastered the art of resilience and hope, Kevin’s philosophy as a clarity builder is strategic and results driven. Kevin’s passion is to equip individuals and organizations with a renewed sense of clarity and excitement, knowing that positive change will bring about positive gains. His exciting creation The Change Revolution offers a winning blueprint for navigating through change and achieving success.
Speaking inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-836-7989.