Words from the Pastor
Overwhelming. Scary. Exhausting. Messy. Inexplicable joy. Amazement. Words like these only begin to describe what it is like to become a parent.
Consider a young unmarried woman in first century Palestine, who is promised to a future husband, and discovers she is to bear a child. In a culture where pregnancy out of wedlock would be a death sentence, Mary is vulnerable to the social dictates that might cost her life. Joseph, her betrothed, discovers that his soon to be wife is pregnant, and he is not the father. Hurt? Angry? Their circumstances were undoubtedly cause for concern, and each of their visions for their future to be was dramatically altered with the announcement that Mary was pregnant.
The Scriptures tell us that both Mary and Joseph were visited by the angel Gabriel, who explained each of their parts in their “new future,” and amid these new life events comes a decree from the government for a census that will require Mary and Joseph to travel 70 miles “to be registered.”
In their poor precarious state, they set off for Bethlehem. Each of them with their own uncertainties about the future. First time parents. Homeless. Poor. Unsure of what their future will bring. Jennifer Frayer-Griggs notes that “. . .the new experience of becoming parents sends us to our knees, propels us into community and has us asking for help in ways we never thought we would.” (Presbyterians Today, November/December 2016, pp 32) I can certainly agree with the being driven to your knees part, and asking questions. Lots of questions.
The transition to parenthood can be an overwhelming experience, and like other life transitions; marriage,
the death of a loved one, loss of job or job change, significant change in finances, a move, and others, it is important to remember to take things a step at a time. Looking to the future is important, but so is being in the present. If we look too far into the future, we might find ourselves paralyzed by unrealized fears or anxieties, and we miss out on the joy of what is before us. Mary received the news from Gabriel and the shepherds experience, and she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart (Luke 2:19).”
The Christian theme of Christmas has become more muted as our world becomes more pluralistic and secular; however, that pluralistic secular culture wants to celebrate Christmas, and does so with great flair. It is into this midst of jovial celebration that we herald the Good News realized so long ago in Bethlehem. This baby, Jesus, who will save His people from their sins is Emmanuel – God with us.
Kids change things. Both Mary and the shepherds were told by their angelic messengers not to be afraid. Fear not. If we trust the Lord for the future, then why would we be afraid or anxious? Rather, God would tell us to enjoy the here and now as we seek Him (Matthew 6:33-34), because Jesus changed things.
Amidst the lights, the wrapping paper, and the decorations, like the shepherds, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)
May the celebration of Christmas for each of you be a time of joy and celebration as you share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world around you.