Advent calls us to the discipline of waiting. But, for what are we waiting, and how do we wait? Preachers and worship leaders will respond to that question in differing ways, including those who respond something like this: “We don’t sing Christmas carols or talk about the birth of Christ until Christmas Eve.” But today’s Gospel lesson makes that negative commitment somewhat harder to sustain, with its “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way” (Matthew 1:18).
This birth narrative is not the greeting card story that we sometimes like to construct, is it? Suffice it to say that we have a complicated story here, and it’s complicated because God started meddling in the lives of perfectly innocent and upstanding folks like Joseph and Mary. Watch out when the Holy Spirit starts to work in your midst. But, please, we’re talking about a baby here, so let’s not make this story too abstract. Anyone who has welcomed a new child into the family knows that it’s a wonderful experience, but it’s also more than a little disorienting. Nothing will ever be the same. Welcoming another human being will change you, as every married person learns, as the church experiences when it receives new and different people.
You can see, then, that this text is not just about what happened to Mary and Joseph two thousand years ago. It’s also about our discipleship and the way the Holy Spirit is moving to bring Jesus into our midst today. We wait for him and he comes to us in the face of our neighbors, even in the face of neglected and abused children. Ready or not, Christ is coming, and we won’t have to wait long. So, be ready for God’s meddlesome and disruptive work; but be prepared for an adventure as well.
With the church in all times and places, we pray, Maranatha, “Come, Lord Jesus.” And we wonder how God will show up today.
We are close to the reality of Jesus, in whom we have invested so much of our life and faith. Jesus is larger than life, shattering all the categories of conventional religious recognition. On the one hand, it is asserted that this is the “Son of David,” in continuity with the old dynasty and the old prom- ises. On the other hand, this is one “from the Holy Spirit,” not at all derived from the human dynasty. This twofold way of speak- ing about Jesus does not re ect vacillation or confusion in the community. Rather, it is an awareness that many things must be said about Jesus, because no single claim says enough.
• Read Isaiah 7:10-16. How and when has God saved you in unexpected ways?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What grace- lled steps have you taken to bring salvation and restoration to the world?
• Read Romans 1:1-7. The author suggests adding a chair to your feasting table. Whom will you invite to ll it?
• Read Matthew 1:18-25. When has God meddled in your life? What was the outcome?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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