In one of his best-known sermons, Howard Thurman wrote: “When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.” The message of justice which we heard proclaimed in the scripture and psalms of Advent continues into the liturgies of Christmas in Psalms 96, 97 and 98: “The Lord has made salvation known, his justice revealed to all.” The same theme is taken up in Psalm 72 for Epiphany: “He shall rescue the poor when they cry out, and the afflicted when they have no one to help them. He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor.”
From Mary’s point of view, the entire story was “the mystery hidden for many ages” which we heard about on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Romans 16:25). The puzzle emerged piece by piece in her life and her son’s, beginning with Gabriel’s appearance, the visit to
Elizabeth, the journey to and the events surround-ing Jesus’ birth. Then the prophecies of Simeon and Anna, the hurried escape into Bethlehem Egypt and eventual return to Nazareth, family life as “the child grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom,” the visit to the temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve, and the wedding feast at Cana.
The gospel passage for January 1 tells us that Mary “treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Of this passage, Elizabeth O’Connor writes, in The Eighth Day of Creation: “Every child’s life gives forth hints and signs of the way he is to go. The parent that knows how to meditate stores these hints and signs away and ponders over them. We are to treasure the intimations of the future that the life of every child gives to us so that, instead of unconsciously putting blocks in his way, we help him to fulfill his destiny. This is not an easy way to follow. Instead of telling our children what they should do and become, we must be humble before their wisdom, believing that in them and not in us is the secret that they need to discover.” As church, it is our mission to “listen for the signs and hints in other lives in the very same way that we listen to them in our own,” as we explore the mystery of our own baptism during the Epiphany season.