Concern, anxiety, uncertainty, second guessing, apprehension – all of these emotions have been present in these past weeks as we prepared for a life time change in our family. We recently moved my mother-in-law into a long term nursing care facility. Though necessary, this is a difficult move for her and for all of us. It is the end of an era as we prepare her long time home for sale and accompany her in this heart wrenching transition.
As I read today’s gospel, these very same emotions seem to jump off the page.
Traditionally, the season of Christmas elicits a romantic, tinseled picture of Jesus’ coming in the beautiful nativity sets in our homes and churches. Normally, the Christmas story does not draw out emotions of confusion, apprehension and uncertainty. However, in revisiting today’s part of the Gospel’s Christmas story, such emotions are evident.
Matthew summarizes the story of how the birth of Jesus came to be by telling us that Mary is pregnant with Jesus. Though she and Joseph are betrothed, they have not lived together. It is not hard to imagine the anxiety, concern, and uncertainty in both Joseph and Mary’s life. We know that Mary had asked the Angel Gabriel, “How could this be?” Joseph is prepared to quietly divorce Mary according to Jewish law, though unwilling to expose her to shame. Certainly this is not the picture of peace on earth or in Mary and Joseph’s relationship at this point.
Joseph is not calmed until an angel in his dreams helps him realize that he need not be afraid to take Mary into his home because God’s spirit is with him and Mary; and that Emmanuel, “God is with us”, was in their midst. This was certainly a time of faith. Yes, faith in God, but also in each other in order to be able to enter into the unknown and trust one another…their actions speaking louder than words as they began their journey into the unfamiliar future.
In a week, we will celebrate Christmas in our homes and faith communities, with family and friends. In the midst of our celebrating together we bring our selves with our struggles, brokenness, worries, anxieties, and concerns.
Hope is today’s message in Jeremiah’s words, as well as in the psalmist hymn. They bring the promise that God is coming. And our reality is that we know that Emmanuel is here, in our midst.
During these seven days of preparation, my prayer is that I/we may be open to Emmanuel in our midst…the promise of hope, trust, faith in a God that IS with us.
In the midst of the busyness of these days, perhaps in the quiet darkness of the night, I pray that I/we will be open to the real message of the season….God is with us. I have hope that we will somehow realize that our call is to be that God presence to those with whom we walk today and tomorrow as we reach out to those in need and into the Christmas celebrations.
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