Daily Reflection
December 18th, 2006

Joan Blandin Howard

Christian Spirituality Program
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Jeremiah 23:5-8
Psalm 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19
Matthew 1:18-25

The poetic longings of Isaiah have been woven throughout the Advent readings. Written to the tempo of hope and trust in a future of truth, peace, and justice, we have sung and hummed along to the joyful tune of anticipation and wonder of things to come in the day of the Lord. The world is to be re-newed. In today’s reading from Jeremiah, we hear, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;…he shall do what is just and right in the land.” The people wait for the glorious dawn of the Day of the Lord! The world waits; we wait; we hope and we trust.

Meanwhile in the gospels, we have been gathered along with others who are lonely, hungry, lame, poor and dis-eased. We have listened as the desert preacher has called out, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” We have walked with a frustrated, tired, sometimes exasperated young man, Jesus. Again in wait for the Day of the Lord!

In today’s gospel we are invited to sit with Joseph. Imagine what he must have been going through. Imagine. His beloved Mary is pregnant. How could this be? His choice under the law is to turn her over for stoning or to divorce her quietly. In his fear and confusion he chooses to quietly divorce her. Divorce, as they are already married according to the law and custom of the time.

My deepest desire is to have Mary as my wife, to have a family and to live in peace. I am a simple man, I desire nothing out of the ordinary – a loving wife and a family; children to love and to teach. Children who will be there with us as we age. Is this too much to ask? What will happen to Mary, to the baby, to us? This was a nightmare. This could not be happening.

In his fear and doubt and uncertainty, “…the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph…do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived… “She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus…” In fulfillment of the prophet, “They shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

“Do not be afraid.” We have heard this time and again crisp and clear ringing out in scripture. But even so, we are afraid, I am afraid. I am at times “narcotized by the anxieties”* of any given day. The good news is that “God is with us.” God is with me. Not a promise to mend and fix, but a promise of comfort and presence in the midst of the fear, the anxiety and the confusion of any given day, any given moment, any given second.

The Day of the Lord is Emmanuel, the presence of the Lord, God is with me – today, yesterday and tomorrow.

*phrase borrowed from Ted Bohr, S.J.

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