During the holiday season in our message series that we’re calling, Family Matters, we’ve been helping you get ready for the many family visits this Christmas season. In the course of our Sunday messages, we’ve looked at how to prepare emotionally and spiritually for family gatherings, forgive loved ones who have hurt you, and work together to care for the poor. You can catch up on past messages by listening to them on our website.
This week, we explore the challenge of being fully present to family when we spend time with them at Christmas. In the gospel reading, Mary came home to her family for Christmas. After an angel announced that she would give birth to the Son of God and Savior of the world, Mary made the long journey to the home of her relatives, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who was pregnant at the time with John the Baptist. Mary’s mere presence caused John to leap for joy in his mother’s womb, while Elizabeth herself exclaimed, “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
These words are almost identical to those of King David in the presence of the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. According to the Bible, the Ark contained the original tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Israelites carried the Ark with them for forty years while they wandered in the desert following their release from slavery in Egypt. After their conquest of the promised land, the Ark was brought to a city in the northern kingdom of Israel called Shiloh. King David later took the Ark to Jerusalem, but, fearful of its power, subsequently sent it to the household of a man named, Obed-edom, where it stayed for three months, the same period of time that Mary stayed with Elizabeth blessing her household. In yet another parallel, David danced before the Ark of the Covenant, while John the Baptist leapt for joy in the presence of Mary carrying Jesus.
Because of these scriptural similarities, Mary soon was called the Ark of the New Covenant by early Christians. In the Ark of the Old Covenant, God came to his people with a spiritual presence, but in Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, God comes to dwell with his people in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In both cases—Old and New—the Ark contains the real presence of God, or his shekinah, through which he dwells with his people.
During this holiday season when you are visiting with family, remember to radiate God’s love and peace by being truly present to your loved ones. You, too, can become an ark of God by bringing comfort and coziness, or what the Scandinavians call hygge, to your family this Christmas.
Listen live or online to our Sunday message this weekend for inspiration and some practical advice on how to put aside all the distractions and ignore the commotion of the holiday season, so that you can focus on your family and bring home the hygge.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson