Today was the first really frosty day of the winter, so I took my camera out for a walk with me, through the woods to the river. As I walked, I was thinking about the story of The Little Christmas Tree, and how it connects with the story of Mary, mother of Jesus. It had been on my mind since going to a talk by Rowan Williams at Grundisburgh Church (you can listen to the talk here , it is well worth listening to).
The Little Christmas tree is not strong and proud, thinking itself important. It knows it is smaller than the other trees, and far less imposing. What it does have to offer is shelter, hospitality, for the small animals and birds who are blown about in the storm. It also has a song to sing, a lullaby, at which “even the wind hushed to listen”.
Early in her pregnancy, Mary escapes from the storm that is brewing about her, to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who offers her refuge, caring for her as she shelters her growing child. They, two women with unexpected pregnancies, offer the profoundest hospitality to each other, that of love and acceptance. On her arrival, Mary pours out her joy in a song traditionally called The Magnificat
Here it is from The Bible Retold
I’m so full of joy my spirit is dancing
before God, my Lord, my Saviour.
God did not turn away from me
because I am poor, and now
I will be called blessed by
all the generations yet to come
God, the great, the holy,
has done so much for me.
God brings down the powerful,
but lifts up the weak.
The well fed are empty,
and the table of the hungry
is piled high with good things.
God looks at us with kindness,
giving hope to the hopeless,
caring for those who trust him,
remembering his promises to our people.
You can read Luke’s account here
And from Prayers and Verses
be to me
like the evergreen tree
and shelter me in your shade,
and bless me again
like the warm gentle rain
that gives life to all you have made.
Based on Hosea 14:4-8
Let there be little Christmases
throughout the year,
when unexpected acts of kindness
bring heaven’s light to earth
Earlier this year we spent a few nights in Canterbury, and made evensong at the Cathedral part of of daily practice. It was as glorious as you might imagine! One thing that made a profound impression was hearing Mary’s song, the Magnificat, every day. It felt a powerful reminder how God does not favour the rich, even in the richest of cathedrals, but the poor. It helped me to see the homeless, those lacking shelter, on the streets of Canterbury, it helped to soften my heart. I picked up a stack of gift cards from various cafes to pass on to people, after I had sat with them a little and asked them their names and their stories. A very small gesture, I know, but perhaps a beginning.
Cold nights make me think of those who have no shelter.Perhaps it can be part of our Advent preparations to support those who do not have a room, and have to take shelter in the most inhospitable of places. Some suggestions are below.