From Advent Hope to Christmas Wonder

Tonight, as we contemplate the inexpressible truth that God loves this world and embraces each of us by becoming human in Jesus, we must ask ourselves how we in turn can embody that love in our daily awareness and practice of compassionate self-giving to those in need.

This is what we learn from looking into the eyes of the Christ-child at Christmas.  We are put here to love, not merely for the sake of others, but for our sakes as well.  To be able to love, to have love planted in our hearts, to have love that may have been long dormant in our hearts unearthed and called out of us, is to be alive.  It is the joyful Good News of Christmas.

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Beyond Imagining

Rembrandt - The Dream of St. Joseph

Mary, Mary, the things that you have said to me,
Strain my reasoned faith beyond imagining.

Alone and in a jealous rage, my heart is torn like a broken page,
from an ancient scroll that’s tossed aside in some forgotten place.

When my desperation ceased, angelic dreams of peace
Revealed that God had chosen you.
No man will ever comprehend the glory that attends you
O Mary, I believe it’s true.

The Lord God will give a sign, a maiden will be found with child,
From a virgin’s womb he shall come, Immanuel.
So the prophets spoke of old, the promises that we still hold,
Are found in the stillness of a night grown cold in Bethlehem.

O, the joy that he will bring,
The long awaited king has come to set his people free.
When I was lost and my mind was so uncertain,
You came to me, calmed the storm, letting love begin.

Mary, Mary, a humble man I will be,
And care for you faithfully, ’till the day I die.
A carpenter is all I am. It’s a modest trade for a common man,
With an uncommon destiny given to my hand.

When my desperation ceased, angelic dreams of peace
Revealed that God had chosen you.
No man will ever comprehend the glory that attends you
O Mary, I believe it’s true.

Mary, Mary, the things that you have said to me
Strain my reasoned faith beyond imagining.

–Rick Lord, © Morning Song Music, 1984

Advent IV: Risk-Taking Love

As Advent nears its end, we focus on Joseph and the journey of faith that opens up before him. I am struck by the transformation of Joseph in this story (Matthew 1:18-25), by his awakening from a night of uncertainty and most likely deep hurt, to an uncommon destiny of adoptive care for the one to be known as Immanuel, God near and with us.

Matthew tells us Joseph was known to others as a ‘just’ man, but he is so unassuming that he fades swiftly from biblical sight (this episode in Matthew is the single personal story from which we can gain any insight into his character).

What we do learn from Matthew’s short episode is that upon learning of her “illegitimate” pregnancy, Joseph chose not to humiliate Mary but to break the engagement quietly. He then experienced a divine message in a dream indicating he was to go beyond justice and disappointment to mercy and trust. 

I am inspired by Joseph’s response of strong and risk-taking love that ultimately created a home for the child and the woman who birthed him. Joseph is a vivid reminder that the stories of our lives are given meaning and purpose within God’s grand design, for we too are called to create a home where the life of Christ can be encountered, where we can know Christ and make him known to a world in need.