“Prepare yourself, O Ephratha! / The Lamb is on her way to give birth to the Chief Shepherd she carries in her womb. / The God-bearing forefathers will rejoice, beholding Him, / and with the shepherds, they will glorify the Virgin nursing Him.” (Byzantine Kontakion-hymn of the Sunday Before Nativity)
For those of us on the Older Calendar, today is the first day of the Forefeast of Nativity, so we direct our hearts and minds to Bethlehem (a.k.a. Ephratha). Meanwhile, those of us on the “New” Calendar enter the Forefeast of Theophany (The Baptism of the Lord) and head towards the River Jordan. In both cases, we “behold” a certain appearance of our Lord, the Lamb of God. But it is only in the first case, of the Nativity, that we also behold another “Lamb,” as She is called in the above-quoted hymn, – the Mother of God.
Let me take pause today and contemplate Her self-offering, Her sacrifice, as She made “her way” to a small town with no rooms available for Her. The teen-aged Virgin, who became “the way for The Way,” was already fulfilling Her cross-carrying vocation before anybody knew about the way of the cross. Let me join Her today, walking through my immediate responsibilities, according to my vocation, rather than avoiding them. Let me be responsive to “the Chief Shepherd she carries in her womb,” like a lamb that is willing to be led.