The angel gently touches the sleeping Joseph's shoulder, signalling with the other hand the focus of the dream transferred message, namely Mary, also asleep, arms cradled around a sleeping Jesus.
All is peaceful stillness but the message is not. Herod is coming in search of the infant to exterminate him (and all like him to make assurance double sure). So at the beginning, as at the end, Jesus' life is to be occasioned by violence.
The function of a gargoyle in a medieval Church, was to make the ugly, the distorting, the evil visible such that, as you approached the temenos, the holy space, you would recognise that, though a sanctuary on the inside, it was, on the outside, the place you would most likely encounter the dark, the disfiguring and so be vigilant. Something it is in us, about us that does not like the good and struggles against it just at that point where it is most deeply present.
How often do we find ourselves sabotaging our good because the vistas it opens up in us are freedoms too far? Scuttling back into the safe boundaries of our own comfort zones (or complacencies).
So too out in the wider world perhaps the intensification of chaos, uncertainty and violence we have seen this year is our negative, answering activity to something new seeking to be born? As the great theoretician of the evolution of consciousness, Jean Gebser, suggested, when a new evolutionary form become efficient, the old way becomes 'deficient'?
And the new form, ever new form, is the turn towards 'experience' - the inward authority of what George Fox would call the inner light - and the gathering recognition that 'my' experience is strikingly like yours and that this experience is gathered in a deeper unity of one knowing and one love. No wonder this inward turn receives a withering back lash from the appeal to an or any externalised authority. This authority may have worked once but now it is degraded into fundamentalism. The kind of fundamentalism that this week, sadly, horrifyingly generated its own massacre of the innocents in Peshawar.
When Pope Francis asked about homosexuality replied, 'Who am I to judge?' he was referring to this shift from outer rule to inner conscience. A conscience that is conscious of its shared unity with everyone and all things.
Jesus' gift, he told the disciples, was this unifying love. We all would be amazed into the recognition that we are made of the same stuff, are all branches of the same vine, we are all friends, friends in God, as god; and, as Francis new encyclical on ecology will emphasise this friendship is extensive with the whole gifted creation.
A Christmas message is that this reality is, and is on the way. The resistance to it, in all of us, is strong but is futile for the last word is always the angel's touch, Mary's sheltering arms and God's voice luring us on.
P.S. The Pope, George Fox, Gebser and the Borg all in one Christmas greeting...and, oh, Shakespeare...