Matthew 2:13 – 23
The first part of this reading is about the journey of Joseph and Mary to Egypt, another country, because it was not safe for them or their child to stay in their home land. As they set out on this path, I wonder what they are thinking? Is it a story of courage and hope, or one of fear? Where did they stay? Were they alone? How did they survive?Is the sun rising on a better day or setting on all thier hopes and dreams?
The truth is they didn’t know what really to expect maybe it was a bit of both. I feel like Joseph took really seriously from this text to be guardian and protector of this special child. Going to whatever length it required to keep him safe. What dad wouldn’t.. How many Dad’s try to keep their kids safe, doing whatever it takes for their kids to have the best future.
I was thinking a lot about what they would have taken with them. Us going camping for a weekend requires a whole household for us to survive, how much of it is needed for the journey realistically? How much do I think I need but realistically I will be quite fine without?
The journey wasn’t just about the physical trip either it was an exercise in faith. Faith that God would provide what they needed, faith that their actions would be enough to protect the child, faith that there would be kind people at the other end who would give them a chance to be able to support their young family.
My faith journey has taken me on a new path over the last couple of weeks, it certainly hasn’t been the path I expected, but I have learnt with God not to hold too tightly to expectation. I stand with Mary and Joseph at the beginning of the journey wondering what is ahead? Will the path lead me back, I can’t assume that, what will I learn? But I step out in faith, faith that it is God who has called me here and that God is there already ahead of me, faith that there will be kind people when I get there, faith that I will have what I need to support my family and faith that I will be able to use everything to God’s purpose.
Journey’s don’t always go where we think they will but that is not always a bad thing. Maybe it is both a sunrise and a sunset at the same time.
This week I wanted to play with the idea of the alternative nativity. Most of our images of the nativity is with Mary and Joseph in a shed in the middle of a field all alone. It would seem that historical research in modern times actually gives us a different understanding. The word we use for inn does not accurately reflect what they were trying to talk about. More it was that all the guest rooms in the homes were full, so they would have had to bunk down with the family. Probably in the middle of the house with the animals which was probably a good thing as it was warmer there than anywhere else. The place would have been busy and there would have been lots of people. Including midwives to help in the birth.
Some say what does it matter? It is interesting how my perceptions of God changed when I found this out.. Living in a very individualistic culture I read the original nativity story as cruel and heartless, that poor Mary was left alone, to give birth to her firstborn. A young couple with no idea and no support. Having had children let me tell you it is a scary time. Even with modern medicine I still knew things could go wrong and that both mine and my baby’s life was at risk.I was grateful for the wisdom of midwives and the companionship of older women.We assume in this culture that the love of two people is enough. I much prefer the concept that it takes a whole village to raise a child, making the best of everyone’s gifts and skills and sharing them with the whole community.
As I have got older and watched the people around me as new babies enter our world, most people are drawn to newborns, it is like they want to give their blessing to them, or an understanding that they have witnessed a miracle. It brings such joy and delight. Even if they were among strangers, there is a common love of children, particularly babies and most people would do whatever they could to help.” I have this and I have that” , they want to share, help.
For me it reminds me, that God’s relationship with us is not just one on one, my Jesus my Saviour, but that this child was born into a loving supportive community, of doting aunties, excitable children and proud uncles. God does not just dump us on this earth alone expecting us to find our way to God or to succeed. Jesus wasn’t just about God’s love but was born into the best of love, making room where there wasn’t any, finding support amongst strangers and generosity out of nothing. This is the exciting creativity of God for me this year. A reminder of the importance of community and that we are not alone, not just because God is with us but also that there are others who have love to share. May you find people who are kind this year, may love be your companion and may the joy and delight of new life fill your heart with hope for a better world. Merry Christmas.
The only place we get to hear about Josephs journey is in Matthew. I don’t think this would have been an easy place to be. To discover the one that you were betrothed to was pregnant, as if that wasn’t enough, she was also claiming it was God’s. How terrible it must have been, how betrayed would he feel. I don’t know if you notice the ring fallen from his hand representing the loss of hope in a future he had been sure of..
God does not leave him here, but meets him and speaks kindly to him alleviating his fear through the voice of an angel. Joseph wakes up and is ok, it is like he now gets it.. We hear of Mary’s song, how blessed she felt in light of her circumstances, but I do wonder about Joseph. Did his heart too, sing with the joy of being chosen to be guardian to God’s son? Did his Spirit rejoice? Did he still have doubts, were there days where he looked at Jesus and wondered who he looked like? Doesn’t he resemble the guard who was hanging around at the time? I wonder if this is part of the reason we don’t hear much more about Joseph? Or was it just that he knew Jesus always was God’s and like a child sent away to become a priest, was never his anyway.
Sometimes the things of God I think can be hard to believe. certainly when you’re in the midst of it, it is often only in hindsight that I can see how God had moved. But I also know what it is like when I am wrestling with something then realise it is a God thing how much I relax and can just get on with it, moving with the tide.
I give thanks for the truth of which Joseph comes to us. Dreams shattered, yet heart returning open to the new possibility of God.
In the theme of Advent to get ready, we come to a reading in Matthew where John the Baptist is in gaol and is beginning to wonder is Jesus the Messiah, the one that they were waiting for or should they be looking for another? How do we prepare for one that realistically we had no idea what it looks like? God does not work in our logic or reason, but often throws things in that surprise us. The superhero Messiah came in the form of a normal child, a baby born of a woman, loved by a family. The expectations of miraculous came much later and that confirmed what already was.
It reminds me of the regular struggle we face as Christians as to what is the will of God? How do we discern it? Some say, there is no God’s will, God just allows us to live the life we choose. My experience of the journey of faith is not this. I think God does have a dream or vision for us and this world, we are given free will so we can choose, but throughout this, God is always available to offer wisdom and guidance, in the hope that all can be the best they can be. It is not always easy to know this wisdom, or hear the quiet still voice, interestingly the only time I have ever been sure is when I see the consequences of the actions or decisions I have made and they reflect the things I know are valuable to God. Mind you there are some times when I know that in the beginning but I choose to ignore it too!
I wonder if Jesus was giving us a model here to know the things of God? People who couldn’t see things before see, people who could not hear before hear, people who could not move are leaping for joy, those who were dead become alive, the poor hear the good news. How do we know people are from God, or the path is from God? It reflects the things of God.
This is not always easy to see or hear. So I wonder if preparing for Advent with this reading is about opening our eyes and ears, looking for those moments and people when God shines through. What is your joy, your hope this Christmas? How is God present with you in ways you did not expect? How do you know, when you have brushed up against God?