“Tell me the story of when I was born.”
Children, sometimes even grown children, will ask this question. It’s not that they want a history report, ‘just the facts please’. They want to hear you tell them about the experience of their birth in your life. It’s about the relationships, the joy, the hope, the affirmation of being loved. Telling the story allows us to let others see and hear what’s important to us, how we were open to and changed by this new life. They want to see our eyes light up, our faces fill with joy and our whole presence exude love for them and that moment in our lives.
Imagine Jesus asking Mary and Joseph about his own origin story, his birthday! ‘Tell me again about the Angel, Imma’… ‘did Wise Men really come from the East?’ Abba, ‘tell me about the journey to Bethlehem’. Maybe, cousins Elizabeth, Zechariah and John would be visiting, and Elizabeth would chime in about when she was expecting John and Mary came to visit! Can you imagine. And John, from across the room can be heard hollering, “Tell me the story of my birth, too”, Imma!
All our birth stories are important, no matter the circumstances. It’s about how we came to be and the day we came into the world, and if only briefly, that time when time seemed to stand still. To gaze upon the face of a newborn child is to be bathed in light and love, transfixed on the beauty before you and the wonder of new life. So too the birth of Jesus, except we all want to enter into his story, marvel at his birth, gaze into his face. It’s his birth that changed everything for everyone who shares in it. And yes, Mary and Joseph knew that their child would save the sons and daughters of God, that’s why they named him, Jesus.
For Matthew, telling the story of the conception and birth of Jesus is to emphasize that it was a unique and world changing event. It speaks of the very intimate experience of Joseph and Mary. It speaks of the movement of God in creation, passing from the former age of prophets and promises to the time of fulfillment and intimate presence. Matthew sees the coming of God’s Son into the world as the fulfillment of the promise given through Isaiah centuries before. The birth of Jesus is the sign of God’s presence, “God with us.” Emmanuel.
In the beginning Joseph didn’t think he wanted to be part of the story. He wasn’t thinking about the prophetic words of Isaiah, at first. He didn’t immediately see a new age coming and this story of the child in Mary’s womb wasn’t, at first, a story he wanted to live or about which he wanted to tell others. Some of our own stories might also have been complicated and controversial. For Joseph, it was an unexpected and unwanted development in his life with Mary. The law and the norms of his culture supported his view of the situation, and although he wanted to be merciful toward her, he also couldn’t see any alternative, quiet divorce was the only way forward. Such might have been the history of Joseph and Mary if not for the Angels message in his dreams.
The message of the Angel put to rest within him the apparent scandal of the situation and revealed another path. Without clear comprehension, but full of faith and righteousness, Joseph “awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him”, courageously he did as he was asked. He was asked not to follow the wisdom of man, not to invoke the law. He was asked not to abandon Mary and Jesus. He was asked to not to act out of his pain, his sense of betrayal. That morning as he rose and prayed and put on his mantle, Joseph offered his sacrifices to the Lord. He offered his dreams of the future, his hopes for children with his name, his desire for his wife. He laid down his fear, doubts, questions, reputation, understanding, personal hopes, the protections of the law and so opened himself to the mercy and grace of God.
Joseph didn’t go on to do great things in the world. In fact, his silence in Scripture is so deafening it demands attention as its own spiritual lesson. His righteousness became his greatness. His silent love for God became his greatest strength as he faithfully agreed to extend his loving mercy and wrap his mantle around Mary and Jesus and bring into being the Holy Family. Faith and Grace made him able to receive Mary and the child; to fully love, protect, nourish, and provide.
As their story together unfolded, they would discover that if there was any scandal, it was that God became intimately present to creation in their Son. They would learn the depth of God’s merciful faithfulness and loving commitment to creation. They became the first among us to receive the fullness of the gift of salvation in the renewal of the covenant in which God affirmed that He chooses us. He loves us. He is at the center of all our stories, no matter the circumstances of our birth. He gazes upon our beauty and He shares with us light and love this His own Son whose birth we celebrate today.
“Tell me the story of when I was born.”... “Tell me the story of when you were born again”
This is a good week to spend some time (yes, in the midst of everything else), and reflect on what we believe and even to make note of the things in our Creed that we're unsure about or maybe, that we don't yet fully believe. Meditating on the Creed offers a great way to prepare so that this coming Feast of the Nativity of Christ is one in which you can fully enter and celebrate, for all the best reasons - most especially the Birth of Christ.
The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
On this ‘Gaudete’ Sunday, the Scriptures are focused on rejoicing, joy, singing God’s praises. So close to Christmas many of us might not be ‘feeling the joy’! For everyone, whether focused on our personal spiritual growth and readiness for Christ or focused on the ‘busyness’ of the season, now is the time when we can get weary from our efforts, stresses, pressures, expectations and preparations!
HOPE, is what we all need. HOPE, is not about expecting what can not happen. It is about trusting that God will provide what is necessary in order to bring us home.
We HOPE for the coming of Christ more fully in our hearts, our lives, our families and the world.
HOPE is what can help us receive the blessings that God has for us and face the challenges that come our way. Can you think of anyone who might like to hear a message of HOPE and ENCOURAGEMENT, right now?
Then now is the time to offer a prayer for them. Now is the time to reach out and lend a hand, send some kind words in a card, an email or just call them up! Is there anyone you know who might be feeling alone or shut in right now? Then now is the time to beat a path to their door and bring them some cheer.
We are reflecting on the first coming Christ, His coming more fully in us and His second coming, but we should not forget that right at this moment we are Christ. We are His hands and feet, His voice and His embrace in the lives of others. Continue to REJOICE! Be a bearer of JOY! Let your whole being SING the GOOD NEWS and raise up the Spirit in all those you meet!
Ready or Not, He's coming...
When John the Baptist talks about repentance, he’s talking about conversion of heart and mind that leads to changes in our life choices. Authentic disciples of Christ are necessarily open to the fullness of the Grace of God which can be received in the Sacraments we receive, especially the one given for reconciliation through God's mercy and love. A fullness of grace which is intended to transform us. A transformation that will necessarily be seen, felt and desired by others. The true sign of conversion is in our actions. It would be an illusion if we believed that just because we have received these sacraments, we are safe on judgment day.
We are being called to get it straight before we die or before He comes again. This season of advent could be a wake up call for some and a tune up for others. I’m sure it would make sense if I said it was necessary to do periodic tune ups on your car to make certain that it functions like it should and as efficiently as it should. Doesn’t it make more even more sense that we need to do periodic spiritual tune ups?
Hopefully everyone is getting increasingly focused on their spiritual health and preparedness, as we continue into the second week of Advent. There are so many traditional and new ways to approach this season of the year whether you are a young adult, a family, a couple whose kids have moved to their own homes, or a single person. One really cool idea I read about, can be especially meaningful and helps to build the habit of prayer. While wrapping gifts reflect and share openly about that person and then when you put on the bow or tag, offer a prayer for them for the coming year or maybe for a particular need that they have at this time of year.
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.