Reflection Masthead
Issue 119 - Christmas Mystery - December 2014

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Many great artists have depicted the scene of Gabriel's announcement to Mary.  One well-know work is Sandro Botticelli's "Cestello Annunciation." 

Click on the image below to read Andrew Hudgins' marvelous poem inspired by the painting.

Cestello Annunciation

Past Issues


2-Creating Sacred Space

3-Leaving Footprints


5-Ordered Life

76-Vanier Visit

87-Wondrous Fear, Holy Awe

91-Crater Lake



101-On Reflections 

102-Morning Moments

104-Into Self Into God

107-First Home

108-NBA Championship

109-Not Nice

110-On Freedom 

111-Electronic Dependency

112 Robin Williams 


114-Simple Acts 

115-The Seen Edge 

116-Kentucky Epiphany 

117-Sing Your Name  

118-The Unknown  

Link to all past issues  


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Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth


  Christmas does not happen without human openness to God. Consider Mary. 
    In a grotto in France, the angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary. He hovers on bright wings. She kneels in amazement. Between them, hanging in mid-air, floating somewhere between earth and heaven, are her words of response: "Je suis la servante du Seigneur" ("I am the servant of the Lord").   


The grotto is the chapel of St. Gabriel, in Le Puy, France.  I never learned the name of the artist who crafted this representation of the Annunciation, the brass glowing against the dark volcanic rock. I only know how the image lingers in my mind ten years after my visit.

Mary kneels with both hands raised, palms facing the angel.  Is she trying to shield her eyes from his brightness? Is she trying to shield herself from the message that he brings, the message that will change her life forever?

The scripture tells us that Mary was "much perplexed" by the angel's visit. Well ... who wouldn't be? The appearance of an angel is not exactly an everyday occurrence.  Not in Nazareth. Not anywhere I have lived, either.

And then there is the message the angel brings. He says she is highly favored. Somehow it doesn't feel that way, knowing she will be exposed to the shame of the village gossip. Somehow it seems more like an impossible burden, more than she can bear. She - she? - will bear a son who will be called the Son of the Most High. She, the girl from an obscure village, engaged to the town carpenter?

Even the medium of the art conveys the tension: The smooth, glowing brass set off against the rough, dark stones; modern art in a grotto carved out centuries ago. Some artists depict the annunciation with Mary and the angel nearly touching. Not here. There is a gap between earth and heaven. There is a gap between time and eternity.

Mary And in that gap float Mary's words. The words hang in the air; the future hangs in the balance. The course of God's dealing with humankind hang in the balance. It almost looks as if she might raise her hands to snatch the words back. But no. She has given her answer.

And so the story of Christmas begins. With the words of a young girl who somehow said "Yes" to a grand mystery. "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Those stammering words led Mary onto an arduous and winding path, a path of struggle, a path of wonder.  Where might those words lead me, if I were bold enough to stammer the syllables across my lips, to let them float between earth and heaven?  

Jan and I pray that you may have not only a Merry Christmas, but one that is open to the fresh - and always surprising - presence of God.


                                                            - Bill


Christmas Wishes

We are grateful for ~~~
Faith that unites us
Hope that sustains us
Love shared among us.
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Sincerely,  Bill Howden & Jan Davis
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