Lucy Strandlund is in the Masters of the Arts in Spiritual Formation program and comes to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Alabama.
As I sat in church on Christmas Eve, my brain full of a semester’s worth of new Biblical Studies knowledge, I felt very distant from any Jesus who might be found sleeping in a wooden manger. In the two Gospels that mention the birth of Jesus, only one spends much time on the story of his infancy. To me, the Jesus of the Gospels is a grown man who meets us where we are but invites us to be more than we have been. So who is this little baby? Where is the challenging and radical man from the Bible? This baby can’t tell cryptic parables or invite sinners to dinner. I wondered what Christmas meant to me as someone who is very much fascinated by the adult Jesus.
Christine Havens is a senior in the Master of Arts in Religion. Christine came to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Iowa.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
How do you recognize a gift? Gifts are objects of love and affection, given freely, right? We have a Christmas carol that celebrates them—“on the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me. . .” Toward the end of my marriage, I learned to recognize when my ex was seeing another woman—he bought me things that were fairly thoughtful, that reflected my taste. Reflecting on this right now, I keep my distance from the image of an iridescent black stone dragon given to me for Christmas one year and from the gratitude I recall feeling at the time—despite the affair, my husband remained my true love. There were other such “gifts” before we finally separated. To say the least, this definitely skewed my ability to recognize gifts. I loved what my friends since then have given me—candles, a pair of earrings when my ears were not even pierced at the time. I do not mean to suggest that these gifts had no meaning. How can I say it except to state that they were easily recognized, safe, and not painful? I can see now just how much relief and gratitude I felt then—I did not have to go near that dark place inside me that helplessly viewed thoughtful gifts with trepidation and suspicion, a darkness that, until very recently, I carried around within me.
Ashley Urquidi is a middler in the M.Div. program. Ashley comes to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Maryland.
This holiday season has been bittersweet for me, in many ways. There is a tear in the family I was born into, one I fear may be irreparable. And yet, despite this, I believe I now see more clearly than I ever have before. Christmas is about love. This makes sense, right? But sometimes it takes a travesty to see that Christmas isn't just about any kind of love, it's about the love God offers us through the birth of His Son. That is deep God-love, the kind of love that our language fails to convey in single (or multiple) words. It is self-sacrificing and self-emptying. It is the courage to make yourself vulnerable to pain and sorrow, to move from safety and security into chaos simply to better the lives of those you care for. Giving and receiving this love requires, demands, the giving of yourself.
Psalm 45, 46; Isaiah 35: 1-110; Luke 1: 67-80
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked
favorably on his people and redeemed them.