The Christmas story is both ordinary and extraordinary. God takes an ordinary young girl and bestows on her an incredible privilege, namely to carry the Son of God in her womb. But equally he takes an ordinary young man, Joseph to be the one who cares for her. God uses Joseph extraordinarily also. Matthew’s account (1:18-25) focuses on how God helps Joseph to understand what is happening with Mary’s pregnancy. It was difficult for him to grasp. What is quite beautiful is that even though he couldn’t understand what had happened he didn’t want to expose Mary to public disgrace. We learn that Joseph was a righteous man meaning that he was seeking to honour God and be godly in the way he related to other people. This righteousness of Joseph is expressed in being gracious to Mary.The Lord sent Joseph a dream explaining that the child will be born through the power of the Holy Spirit alone. It is all about God’s grace. As I reflect on this last year it seems to me that there is a growing harshness in the public sphere in the way people address one another and treat one another. Of course wrong doing must not be hidden and must be exposed so that justice is done and victims can get closure but it does seem that our society has lost the ability to be gracious and merciful and forgiving. As we think about Christmas we see Joseph who is gracious to Mary and we see our God who is gracious and merciful to us - humanity. He comes to us and meets us at our point of need to bring hope and forgiveness. All of us are beset with sin. The birth narratives focus on the fact that Jesus’ name and indeed His mission is to save people from their sins and this is our greatest need. We need grace. We need forgiveness and we need a fresh start with God and with people. My hope and prayer is that the person of Jesus will so impact us and change us that His forgiveness of our sins and filling with His Spirit will result in us being gracious to other people. This doesn’t mean that we have to agree with other people over every matter. Being gracious means treating people with respect and with dignity because they are created in the image of God. It means facing them with difficult truths and doing so in love. This world needs grace because without God we do become very harsh and unforgiving and mean spirited and that is where our society is heading. In the Matthew reading it is also highlighted that the baby conceived in Mary’s womb didn’t involve human agents but was totally the work of God through His Holy Spirit. This is very important because this means that Jesus is without sin and so He can die for our sins as a pure offering and so achieve salvation. Truly Jesus is God with us, Emmanuel and this changes everything because God is with us and we are not alone and this means we have hope. May we rejoice in the goodness of the Lord this Christmas and praise Him for His grace and love shown to us by coming to earth and dying for our sin. Thank you for your support and friendship and may God grant you a holy and peaceful and joyful Christmas.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara