Idyllic Setting or Idyllic Savior?
We often see Christmas as a welcome respite from the challenges of life. Into our world that seems more and more filled with violence, division, disease, economic struggles and broken relationships, we welcome the thought of a precious child born to adoring parents with the angels singing — a bucolic vision of hope and new beginnings.
Jesus’ birth was hardly bucolic. Mary was betrothed and pregnant, a source of great shame for her, her family and her betrothed husband. They were forced to travel with her nearing the end of her pregnancy to pay a special tax. (A “registration” was really just a euphemism for collecting a tax.) She was forced to give birth in an animal’s stall because there was no room for them at the inn. Perhaps there were that many travelers in Bethlehem, but given that this was Joseph’s home town, isn’t it strange that there were no family members who could take them in? I can’t help but wonder if they were shunned because of Mary’s condition.
No sooner had they gotten through this trauma than they were warned that Herod was looking to kill their baby and they were forced to become refugees, fleeing to Egypt to escape the violence.
The glory of the birth of Jesus is not an idyllic setting but the promise of God’s presence in the midst of ugliness, violence and pain. It is no different today. He comes to us not separated off, distant from the realities of life we face, but in the very midst.
Most of us here at St. John’s are not celebrating this Christmas under threat of violence, though some do have loved ones in harm’s way. We are not likely to become refugees. But if the creator of the universe did not fear to come as a refugee, then surely He does not fear whatever challenges we face! He is most assuredly “Emmanuel,” God with us, indeed!
How is your life different because Jesus is God with us?
This column appeared in the December 26, 2021 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
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