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Another rushed Christmas?

December 23, 2017

As I sit to write, Christmas is almost here. Sunday is a strange mix of the last Sunday of Advent in the morning transforming into Christmas Eve as the day progresses. It all feels too rushed. In the morning I’ll hear again the angel Gabriel telling Mary that she is going to give be pregnant with God’s son (Luke 1.26-38), then that evening 9 months have flashed by and there she is giving birth (Luke 2.5-7). All the messy reality of it all vanishes. The problem telling Joseph, and what is her mother going to say?!

I hear of Mary pondering what sort of greeting this might be (Luke 1.28), but I feel robbed of the time to ponder myself. No sooner are those words spoken in church than I’m off to prepare for our huge Christmas Eve carol service, then midnight mass, then a few snatched hours of sleep before the Christmas morning services.

I feel hustled along. So I’m going to ponder now. I’m going to take a few minutes at least to ponder the enormity of that pregnancy and birth, just like Mary (Luke 2.19).

I ponder the awkward conversation between Mary and her mother that isn’t recorded in the Bible. That can’t have been easy in a devout Jewish family. I don’t expect that her mother believed Mary, any more than Joseph would believe her when he was told. I see the anger and deep disappointment in her mother’s eyes. I imagine thoughts like, “I thought I’d brought you up to be better than that.” Then the deep sadness and disappointment that probably hurt more that the heated words that had preceded them.

That meeting to tell Joseph can’t have been much fun either. Did she go in person or did her mother or father go in her place. Maybe it was her father that spoke to Joseph, creeping over to visit, crushed by the shame to him and his family’s name that Mary had caused. At least if it was her father there was no chance of Mary being dragged out there and then, when the anger was hot, and stoned to death. Had he even sent her into hiding, just in case? Was that why, “A short time later Mary hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea.” (Luke 1.39-40).

I do know that the crisis settled down. Joseph, being a kind man didn’t want to insist on his right to justice. Then a second angel convinces him to believe Mary. Following that there must have been 9 months or so of reconciliation between Mary and Joseph. Did that initial lack of trust by Joseph cast a permanent shadow over their marriage, or did they truly manage to heal their relationship?

Is it blasphemous for me to ask these questions, even worse air them in public? I don’t think so. I believe that Mary is a hero and example of faith. A woman whose great faith seems to have driven her to ponder, to question, and to search of God’s meaning in all that was happening to and around her. I read the accounts of Mary in the Bible and I too am inspired to ponder and question. I am inspired to ponder what it means that God became human; a part of his own creation. What has changed because of that? Who should I be because of that?

I ponder the fact that this God-man Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven has come near (For example see Matthew 3.2, Matthew 4.17 and Mark 1.15). Then forcing his listeners to ponder and question by using confusing stories about what this kingdom close at hand might be like.

So I now look at a nativity scene and ponder the life and potential in that little child. The potential that has already been realised, and the potential that is yet to be, as God lives in me.

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