Angel Announces – Mary Sings – Joseph Prays – Shepherds Come – GOD WITH US – Kings Journey
Tonight as we continue our journey of paying attention to the no fear moments of the coming of Jesus into the world I invite us to pause over these two portions of scripture:
"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, 'God is with us'" (Matthew 1:23, NRSV).
"The Word became flesh and blood,and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14, The Message).
I will add the context for these passages below the split, but first I want us to hear again that God in Jesus came among us! In Jesus we see not only God's presence, but also the affirmation that God likes humanity in general and you in particular.
Much of the time we in the church spend a lot of time criticizing others for being ungodly and forget that Jesus "came among us" which is what our theological word "incarnation" means. Jesus became (our) flesh and (our) blood to show how much God loves us, not to prove that he was God (I think that that is already known).
We are told that Mary pondered many things on her heart as she witnessed the birth of Jesus. One of the things I have been pondering most this year is the recurrence of the promise to "fear not" (KJV) or "do not be afraid" (NRSV). The question that continues to come to me is this: "Is God looking for people who will look fear in the face and stand firm knowing that God is with us?"
If so, then the time is ripe for God's daughters and sons to stand up and be counted! In the past three months we have seen our portfolios diminished, friends lose their jobs, income diminished by constricted commissions, and witnessed a tremendous change in direction in our national politics. These events do not invite us to consider whether we will change our habits and behaviors, the demand change. And if there is one thing that I have learned about human behavior its this: WE DO NOT LIKE CHANGE!
Change brings with it uncertainty and instability. We desire to be in charge, yet when instability is the norm, change is in charge. I invite us to pay attention to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and other heroes both ancient and contemporary who stood firm in the fearful moments trusting in the one who said "fear not" for God is with them and with us!
POSTSCRIPT on the fuller lessons:
The context for the challenge to Joseph to call Jesus Emmmanuel is found in this dream sequence:
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Matthew 1:18-25). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers: 1989.
Eugene Peterson's translation of the incarnation lesson in John's gospel lacks the dramatic poetry many of us have come to expect at a Christmas Eve service. Having said that, nobody gets the force of the incarnation any better:
1–21The Word was first,
the Word present to God,God present to the Word.
The Word was God,in readiness for God from day one.
3–5Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
6–8There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.
9–13The Life-Light was the real thing:
Every person entering Lifehe brings into Light.
He was in the world,the world was there through him,
and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
not blood-begotten,not flesh-begotten,not sex-begotten.
14The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,true from start to finish.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (John 1:1-14). Colorado Springs: NavPress: 2002.