Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE
A Reflection for the First Day of Christmas

"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a partridge in a pear tree."

Scripture readings: Psalm 16; Luke 2:1-20; John 1:9-14

ONE GIFT OCCASIONS ALL OTHERS. This is the official day for gift giving and receiving. After the anticipation of Advent and the "I can hardly wait" eagerness of children (and some of us adults, too), Christmas arrives. What gift will you – or did you – open first? And note your feelings after the last gift has been opened. Of all the gifts our loved ones give us, there is a gift that is before and after them. It is the very occasion of every other gift. It is a gift that is the more-than-gifts-can-express heart-felt intent behind every gift. Our "true love," who is none other than God, gives us the Gift – Jesus Christ.

STRANGE MYSTERY. The Incarnation -- the "Word made flesh," "God with us" -- is at once strange mystery and compelling attraction. If we really stop to think about it, if we step back a bit from our cultural conditioning and foregone conclusions and our all-but-imperceptible worldview, Incarnation is a strange mystery. A "4 Him" song muses: "This is such a strange way to save the world." Poets have tried to put the Word-made-flesh into words: "What child is this who, laid to rest on Mary’s lap, is sleeping?" And: "I wonder as I wander out under the sky how Jesus the Savior did come for to die for poor ornery sinners like you and like I?"

FOR TODAY, REVEL. Ever wonder about such things? It is so beyond us that we can’t rationally fathom it. We will be exploring it for a lifetime. We get to live these questions, to enter into the mystery. But for now, for this day, at least, can we accept the Good News told by angels? Can we just revel in it, wonder, ponder?

COMPELLING ATTRACTION. If it is a strange mystery, the Incarnation is also a compelling attraction. Those who get the chance to hear the story – stark as angels appearing in the sky to shepherds – are drawn to the child in the manger. Hearing, we, too, can decide to hasten near to the manger…to adore. Adore, half giddy cooing like a grandparent over an infant; half prostrate-falling worship in the presence of sheer Power, sheer Love.

LAYING DOWN HIS LIFE. Today’s gift is a "partridge in a pear tree." The image is of a mother partridge feigning death in the presence of an intruder in order to draw attention away from her vulnerable chicks. The Gift in the manger would one day lay down his life for "poor ornery people like you and like I." That, too, is part of the strange mystery and the compelling attraction.

WANDER, WONDER & OFFER THANKS. This is a busy day, to be sure. But not too busy to take a few moments to step outside, away from the wonderful noises and traditions. Break away briefly. Wander out under the sky. Quiet yourself. Wonder about the Incarnation. You don’t have to have answers for all the questions. Asking about them is itself entering into the mystery. And, before you head back in, find a way to offer simple thanks for it, for the Gift.

Read further and engage the journaling exercise for today; also, access all installments of Living the Twelve Days of Christmas: A Spiritual Journey.

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