In her poem BC:AD the British poet U.A. Fanthorpe, the first woman to be nominated as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, captures the unremarkable circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. Nothing really unusual was happening that night. In the backwater town of Bethlehem, 1,400 miles from the central power of imperial Rome, government bean-counters were conducting a census in order to expand the tax rolls of Caesar Augustus. A few shepherds stomped their feet to keep warm and gossiped to stay awake through the night shift. A mother birthed a baby. But out of that normalcy, Fanthorpe observes, burst a staggering paradox. Christians celebrate that one ordinary night as the single greatest moment in human history. Her poem reads:
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
The Church celebrates certain special seasons of the year. We even have colors and names for each of them. Advent is blue or purple. Christmas, Easter, and Epiphany are white. Pentecost for just one Sunday is red. But the vast majority of the year is what is called “ordinary time” – which is associated with green, the color of life and growth.
This is the tradition. But I think that there is something about Christmas – something about the incarnation – that reminds us there really isn’t such a thing as ordinary time. Nor is there ordinary anything else.
God loved us so much that despite the mess we’ve made of our world God sent his son into our midst anyway. Max Lucado, in his book God Came Near, put it this way: “He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being. Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the midst of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter…”
Join us this Sunday, and every Sunday, as we explore the extraordinary miracle of the incarnation – Emmanuel, God with us.