Lectionary reading for 12/31/2021: Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 2:15-21
Selected passage for reflection: Luke 2:15-21
Luke 2:15-21 New Revised Standard Version
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Mary was in for it. By welcoming Jesus into her body, she had already said "yes" to incredible vulnerability, and the coming heartache of his death would break her. "But Mary treasured... and pondered." Mary heard the shepherds' words and soaked them in. To treasure and ponder--what an exquisite posture for anyone to take at any time, but especially here for Mary, living in such an epic rush of happenings. The Greek word used here for "treasure" is συνετήρει (sunetērei) and means to keep close, i.e. preserve. I imagine Mary pressing her hand to her chest, kindling the inner knowing of miracle, lest the cold of the night and the fear of what lay ahead snuff it out. She is the consummate contemplative; treasuring is her lifeline.
One of the anti-traffickers I host in spiritual direction, *Kya, lives near a refugee camp where women from all over the Middle East often fall victim to sex trafficking. She offers them stability and a way out. Of course she sees some of the most brutal things human beings do to one another. Last week when we met, she said to me, "You know, there are so many things wrong with the world, but there are so many things that are right."
Wondering if it might be nourishing to reflect on the latter, I asked her to tell me more about those things that are right. Kya goes to the ocean every week and sits in a sanctuary of water and trees and fresh air. She soaks in the "rightness" that the earth offers her there. She is treasuring, keeping close, preserving the beauty and miracle of God in the midst of all she sees wrong in the world everyday. Treasuring is her lifeline.
*I share this story with Kya's permission and have changed her name.
Take a few deep breaths. When you feel grounded and present, allow something wrong in your world, something painful in your life to come forward. This may take some time or come right away. As this is the last day of 2021, so many things may rush to the surface for you from this year, or maybe just something from this day is more than enough to try to hold. Whatever presents, when it has come into view, imagine placing it in your non-dominant hand. Consider holding that hand out on your lap or on your altar or table, and imagine the pain sits right there in your palm. You don’t have to do anything with the pain, just allow it to be there.
In your dominant hand, imagine placing something beautiful from this day or the past week--something that struck you as Peace, Life, God's Presence. Maybe it was a gust of warm air or the sound of a neighbor laughing. Maybe it was flying down the last big hill on your long bike ride, your hands in the air, free from the handlebars (I have always wanted to be able to do this!). Let something emerge that struck you, that shimmered of Emmanuel, God with you. Hold it in your hand for a few minutes and allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying and savoring that memory or sound or smell. Treasure and keep close this encounter with the Divine. Ponder how it might be a lifeline for you to God's goodness and beauty in the midst of the pain you experience that sits in your other hand.
Perhaps close your time by bringing your non-dominant hand to rest in the hand that holds God's goodness. What do you notice in your body and your spirit as you do this? Or bring both hands together, with fingers interlocking, allowing your treasuring and contemplation of God's presence to inform the pain you hold in your other hand.
On a slow inhale, pray silently: Emmanuel, God with me.
Exhaling slowly, pray silently: Emmanuel, God with me.
And on the next slow inhale: Emmanuel, God with me.
And the next exhale: Emmanuel, God with me.
Repeat as long as you like. Amen.
About the Author
Sarrah Lynne Havens lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Michael, and their children; she is an artist and spiritual director. Sarrah Lynne has a BA in studio art, a certificate in spiritual direction from North Park University, and a certificate in Dream Tending from Dr. Stephen Aizenstat at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She directs the non-profit Furthering (www.furthering.org), where anti-traffickers from the US and abroad are served in spiritual direction, and she hosts people outside of anti-trafficking efforts in spiritual direction in a practice she calls "Spiritual Midwifery." Sarrah Lynne loves the agenda-less, open hand of spiritual direction and the belief that God is at work in every person, in every story. She never gets tired of making way for anyone to have eyes to see and ears to hear how that is just so. You can find more about her work in spiritual midwifery here: http://www.slhavens.org