For many parents sleep on Christmas morning is often interrupted at a very early hour – our daughter was the exception – for some reason we always had to wake her on Christmas morning.
For many this waking is not a calm and gentle affair, rather it is by joyous and impatient children who bounce on your bed while shouting –
“Get up, Get up”,
“Christmas is here”,
“Santa has been”, or
“The reindeer have drunk all the milk we left in the bowl last night”.
For others, travel on the roads, interrupts the plans for a family get-together, for some the interruption is a telemarketers call when you’re trying to finish the last of the Christmas cards. Maybe the minister rang you and asked you to take on a task or even a ministry that would have made you change y our plans your mindset, your equilibrium.
The Catholic priest, theologian, L’Arche community worker and writer, Henri Nouwen acknowledges the frustration and sometimes even the anger that can accompany constant interruptions.
But he asks the question – What if our interruptions are in fact our opportunities? What if all the unexpected interruptions are in fact an invitation to give up:
- on the old,
- the expected way of doing things
- something new,
- something different,
- something out of the box,
- something that places us upside down in order that we ca grow and thus be placed the right way up.
What if our feet were suddenly more important than our hands as we are called to go forth in a new direction?
And isn’t that the essence of the Christmas story: many were interrupted and got annoyed, others were interrupted and were transformed.
Imagine yourself as Joseph or Mary – your wedding plans have to be put on hold and your standing in your community is threatened by the interruption of an angel and by the Holy Spirit.
Imagine then, if either Joseph or Mary, had said No to their supernatural visitors an avoided the possible scandal.
If that were not enough – the government of the day required you to travel on rough and dangerous roads with your very pregnant wife-to-be and to travel to Bethlehem.
The innkeeper was interrupted by the couple, desperately seeking a room – didn’t turn them away but offered a stable instead.
The Shepherds watching their sheep at night are interrupted by the Angel of the Lord – what did they do – they turned their feet towards Bethlehem, left their sheep and took up the opportunity to see what the Good News was all about.
Wise men or Magii from the East trampled along for many hundreds of kilometres to worship the baby King. Their lives had taken an unexpected turn.
And King Herod’s comfortable rule was interrupted and threatened by the birth of this ‘king’. This interruption would not transform him, or set his feet in a new direction. Instead it only hardened his heart and turned it even older.
We can only speculate on the impact of the many people that Joseph and Mary or the Angel came across – those who simply kept walking their own path as John says in verse 9-10. Those who stayed in the darkness and didn’t recognise the Christ and what was unfolding – like the story of the Levite and the priest in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Deviating from the norm would interrupt their world and world view and cause a minor inconvenience.
Instead the Samaritan, like Joseph and Mary,, like the Magi and the shepherds, turned up.
For them the waiting was over. The words we have said throughout Advent…. ‘Are we there yet? Was a reality.
And what they found was an upside down world where darkness became light, God the Word becomes Flesh, and the creator suddenly assumes the form of his own creation in a world where all is not well.
Jesus continued to interrupt ordinary lives of many. As an adult, Jesus had a habit of breaking into lives unexpectedly. He called fishermen from their nets, tax collectors from their trees, He call a man from his tome.
He called a zealot to throw away his knife and another to stop doubting the resurrection. Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at the well, a Canaanite who touched his garment and a woman to be stoned having been caught in the act of adultery and he spoke to her condemners.
He interrupted their work, their thoughts, their customs, their actions, their religious practices to create new opportunities.
He even interrupted the power of evil by overcoming death and rising to life.
Jesus the baby, the man, the Christ and the Word is still in the business of breaking into lives today.
Some, we hear it like Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the Magi and our lives are changed forever.
Is God interrupting your life today or is it convenient to ignore or just to see what we do as ritual custom or family tradition.
God may be calling on you to leave the offices or fishing nets or your routines and follow a whole new path into the light.
God may be calling some to speak up on behalf of those who for whatever reason cannot speak up or defend themselves.
Still others of us may be called to stand against the status quo, against those who no longer see interruptions as opportunities for growth and ministry.
When was the last time you were interrupted by the ‘true light that came into the world’?