Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
To hear your voice
To listen deeply to what you say,
To see what you do.
By your Spirit help me
To hear your voice
To see you
Fourth Sunday of Advent: Nativity of Jesus
The final days of Advent bring us to the Birthing. The long wait is over. The New Thing which God is doing is happening. God comes among us in Jesus, to rescue us from all that holds us captive and alienated: from God, from ourselves, from each other, and from creation.
This good news is easy to say (or read), but so much more difficult to see and recognize “on the ground”–both within our own soul, and in the world we live in. Hence, the Advent and Nativity narratives lead us inside the houses of those persons who struggle with this New Thing that is invading their lives.
Matthew leads us into Joseph’s house–as well as into the house of his soul. Mary has told him that she is pregnant–due to the presence and work of the Spirit of God coming upon her. She only knows what the angel Gabriel had told her: that she would conceive and bear a son, and is to name him Jesus; he is the Son of God. She bears the God-child within her. A Brand New Thing is happening! But Joseph can only hear that she is pregnant. The rest of the message he is unable to hear.
He staggers from the news. A baby! Mary is with child! And it is not his! What should he do? Faced with this dilemma he leans upon the rock bed of his faith tradition in the Hebrew scriptures. He had every right (he thought) to expose Mary before the people of the village at Nazareth. But they could stone her to death for committing adultery. Being engaged was considered as binding as marriage. But the thought of seeing Mary’s condition being exposed in public, and the ensuing results do not give him any peace. He feels caught between obedience to the Law, and his loving concern for Mary and the unborn baby. Finally, his goodness rules the day, and he decides that he will arrange for a private annulment of their engagement. That night he sleeps.
But his sleep is disturbed by an angelic visitor who appears in a dream, an angel who speaks God’s guidance to Joseph:
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, (Oh, how he needed to hear those comforting words! He had been so kidnapped by fear!) for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Oh yes! That is what Mary had said wasn’t it. Now he can hear it!) She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-22)
God comes in all kinds of ways to help us recognize and enter into the New Thing that God is doing in and through Jesus. Joseph needed sleep, and to listen to his dreams. Mary (who knows her engagement to Joseph, and even her life could be at risk) needed safe haven in the house of Elizabeth where this older women named, affirmed and blessed the presence of God’s son within her. Only then can she begin to sing and voice what she has said “Yes” to. Zechariah needed solitude and silence in the safe haven of his home tucked away in the hills of Judea. Here he could wrestle with what Gabriel had told him, and give God time to dismantle the walls of grief, doubt, and tradition which held him hostage and unable to embrace this New Thing . Elizabeth needed five months of solitude in order to bask in the unexpected blessing of being with child—a child to be named John!—and to heal from the years of being shamed by the local community because she was barren. Each of these four persons were then able to be hospitable to each other, to the communities around them, and to the New Thing that God is doing!
God knows what each of us needs in order for us to truly receive the Christ-child, to be God-bearers in this world. The invitation here is for us to notice how God comes, and what God says (often not with words, but in many other ways), and to enter into the invitation of the kingdom, the New Thing God is bringing among us.
You come to us
In the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Help me to be present to you –
To be with you,
To listen —
With the ears of my heart.
Continue to free me from the stuff of this world, which holds me captive.
Lead me in your Way of life.
Prayer before reading:
Help me to hear your call
Wake me up
Help me to wait
By your Spirit, may I hear
Help me to be awake for the visitation of your messengers,
And ready for how you come
As a baby
As our Savior.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
- 12/13 Monday: Matthew 1:18-19
- 12/14 Tuesday: Matthew 1:20-25
- 12/15 Wednesday: Psalm 80:1-7,17-19
- 12/16 Thursday: Romans 1:1-7
- 12/17 Friday: Isaiah 7:10-16
- 12/18 Saturday: Matthew 1:18-19
- 12/19 Sunday: Matthew 1:20-25