Introduction to the Celebration
Michel de Verteuil
The story of the virginal conception of Jesus is historical but is also deeply symbolic, and your meditation will reveal to you that this is how Jesus Christ always comes to be born into the world, in all the various ways in which this happens.
Matthew presents Joseph as having had no part in Mary’s pregnancy. When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant he wondered how this could be since they had not been living together as husband and wife. Initially he was confused and he did not know what to do. However, he did not act rashly. He listened to God’s word through the angel’s message in a dream and, although it demanded much faith, he did what God asked him. He allowed his life to be influenced and directed by God’s will. Therefore, without complaining, Joseph decided to prepare for the birth of Jesus by caring about Mary during her pregnancy.
Do we believe we encounter the presence of God in combating poverty and injustice? Jesus said: ‘I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me’ (Mt 25:36).
Do we believe we encounter the presence of God in love, in goodness, in creativity? We believe that God is the source of our light and goodness. As Jesus said: ‘Let your light so shine before all, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 5:16).
Lord, any commitment involves a long journey.
We remember when we first committed ourselves:
- we would fight against racism or sexism or injustice at the workplace;
- we decided to give up drink and work among addicts;
- we accepted public office;
- we began giving spiritual direction.
At first we felt very happy,
then one day we recognised that this was your work,
in which success could not be measured in earthly terms.
It was like when Joseph discovered that Mary, his betrothed,
was with child through the Holy Spirit,
and we too decided to extricate ourselves as discreetly as we could.
But first, as we had made up our minds to do this,
you sent an angel to us, someone who told us not to be afraid
just because we now knew that we were involved in a work of the Holy Spirit.
We thank you that when we thought about it
we found the courage to do what your angel told us to do.
Yes, this is always how Jesus comes to be born.
Lord, Mary is that noble part of ourselves,
bearing your Son Jesus who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
– our generosity, the ability to sacrifice ourselves, to give all to a cause.
That part of ourselves frightens us;
we would prefer to deny it is there at all,
to remain with our mediocrity and our compromises.
Send us your angel to reassure us
that we must not be afraid to take that Mary to ourselves,
so that through us your Son Jesus may be born into the world.
Lord, as Christians we act as if we are doing the world a favour by our service.
But the world is like Mary bearing divinity in her womb,
and you want us, like Joseph, to welcome her with reverence
because of this presence within her.
We must proclaim to all that within the world we can find Emmanuel,
a name which means God-is-with-us.
is by enlisting the support of the powerful.
Today we can see clearly that once again
you are creating a new kind of civilisation through small communities,
composed mainly of poor people,
fulfilling the word that you have often spoken through the prophets,
that no great power but a humble maiden will conceive
and give birth to a new beginning for society
and the world will know that you are with us.
Send your angel to those families,
telling them that they must not be afraid to welcome this pregnancy
because it is your gift to them.
one that you conceived through your Holy Spirit.
Others, even those who love us deeply,
cannot understand what is happening to us.
They fuss and worry, give us up and then come back to us.
Teach us to wait like Mary, knowing that when the time comes,
they will take us to their hearts and this project will come to birth.
thinking that we were not good enough.
But you sent us Joseph, who named Jesus for us,
as one who saves us from our sins.
What gave Joseph the strength to endure all the trials his vocation brought him? It was obviously his life of prayer that gave him the strength to be obedient to God’s call to him. He was a just man, a man of honor as our Gospel today tells us. (Matt 1;19) He had to have been a man of deep faith to fulfill his high calling. There is no record of him being present on Calvary so we presume he had died before Jesus. We can presume that this man of faith had Jesus and Mary present with him as he died. That is the way that all people of faith would like to die, in the company of Jesus and Mary.
-- Home to the most magnificent truth in the entire Bible
-- Home to our Lord's greatest promise
-- Home to the reason we celebrate Christmas
Immanuel is God-with-us in the cancer clinic and in the Alzheimer's ward at the local nursing home. Immanuel is God-with-us when the pink slip comes and when the beloved child sneers, "I hate you!" Immanuel is God-with-us when you pack the Christmas decorations away and, with an aching heart, you realize afresh that your one son never did call over the holidays. Not once. Immanuel is God-with-us when your dear wife or mother stares at you with an Alzheimer's glaze and absently asks, "What was your name again?"
Ever and always Jesus stares straight into you with his two good eyes and he does so not only when you can smile back but most certainly also when your own eyes are full of tears. In fact, Jesus is Immanuel, "God with you" even in those times when you are so angry with God that you refuse to meet his eyes. But even when you feel like you can't look at him, he never looks away from you. He can't. His name says it all.
Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
7. Obedience and Compassion
Stories from Father Tony Kadavil's Collection:
know tonight.” It was a few days before Christmas. A woman woke up one morning
and told her husband, "I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for
Christmas. What do you think this dream means?" "Oh," her
husband replied, "you'll know the day after tomorrow." The next
morning, she turned to her husband again and said she had the same dream, and
received the same reply. On the third morning, the woman woke up and
smiled at her husband, "I just dreamed again that you gave me a pearl
necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?" And he smiled
back, "You'll know tonight." That evening, the man came home with a
small package and presented it to his wife. She was delighted. She opened it
gently. And when she did, she found -- a book! And the book's title was The
Meaning of Dreams. Today’s gospel tells us how Joseph had a dream and how he
reacted to it. (Rev Samuel Candler.