This is a blog about the downtrodden and the disabused. Sometimes called the “little people”. The ones that don’t matter. They come up at Christmas time. There are more of them than important people, but you would not know because the little people are generally made to be invisible. To see them is inconvenient. It might give you the idea that there is injustice in the world.
Approaching Christmas a familiar reading comes up, sometimes called Mary’s Canticle. It’s a song for the disabused and hopeless, those who feel like God has forgotten them. It’s a song to celebrate that there IS justice somewhere in the universe and that it will find its way in due time.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty…”
I was recently at Ein Kerim in Galilee, the traditional home of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. It’s 145 km from where Mary lived in Nazareth - a long way to travel by foot. The hills along the way are craggy and steep, fraught with stones. It’s hard to imagine that a bundled up pregnant teenage girl made her way alone across this terrain to find some kind of refuge with her cousin, away from prying eyes.
When the tourist bus pulled up, everybody made their way up the hill. At the summit, as far as the eye could see, this passage was posted on a stone wall in every conceivable tongue used by the human race. Each nation had sponsored a separate plaque in their native language. I watched several groups gather around their own version, eyes raised in hope. They prayed and crossed themselves. Many wept openly.
Hope is something we might take for granted, but we should not. There are people who shun getting together at Christmas. There is no grand news for them to celebrate. The past year has not been a litany of success. They struggled through and don’t want to be asked what they did wrong. At Christmas they prefer to be alone and out of the spotlight. The proof that every single Christmas is filled with such people, might be that you have never noticed.
We live in a world of walking wounded and PTSD. We forget in the fanciful Christmas cards, that both Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s births were foreshadowed by the slaughter of the innocents - when Herod sought out every male child born within range of the Wise Men’s prophecy, and had them killed. “the voice of Rachel crying for her children, because they were no more”. That’s the reality that preceded the first Christmas - families waking up every day to a silent cradle tucked away in the corner. For those people, the natural order seemed to be proscribed. The world was just like that when you lived on the underbelly of a great and self-important empire.
And the light shone in the darkness but the darkness comprehended it not. The darkness… those are the people who are out spending and having a good time who assume Christmas is of course, for them. They are celebrating themselves and it seems as if the party is never going to end.
Perspective comes when you visit the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. On the side is the famous low door, the one that forces you to bow. Get small. When you bend down to go through you acknowledge a new order, that when Jesus showed up in the world, he came first to people who didn’t matter.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty…”
It’s good to remember that song for the lowly. They will get their turn at Christmas because God designed it that way.