Sunday, December 18 – “The Experience of Birthing the Christ”
View this recorded version of Sunday Worship from December 18, 2022.
Matthew 1: 18-25
Reflection: The Experience of Birthing the Christ
Excerpts from the reflection by Rev. Dr. Fred Grewe:
“So as the story goes… Joseph and Mary were to be engaged and in that time and place engagement could easily have been a year process where you plan for a week-long festival of the wedding. And during the engagement period you were considered married.
And so Joseph and Mary, even though they did not have relations–as the text takes great pains to tell us–they were considered married. And as it came to pass Mary is pregnant and has to tell Joseph. Now how do you tell your fiancée, that you’re pregnant, and then try to explain the story as it’s given to us? How do you have that conversation?
And I imagine, what it must have been like for Mary to sit down with Joseph, the man who loves her, and she has to tell him that she is with child and then the lunacy of trying to explain: ‘But I haven’t been with anybody else, Joseph.’
How do you think that’s gonna go down? I mean, I can’t imagine the sleepless nights she had trying to rehearse it in her mind. How do you have this conversation?
And they did. And Joseph, as the text tells us, was just devastated, as you can imagine, heartbroken, and he had planned to divorce Mary, quietly, so as not to to shame her anymore than everybody would have. I mean there must have been rumor, you know Bethlehem was not a large village. You know how people talk.
You know how people talk and she probably was showing at some point, and the snickers, and the laughter. Aha goody-two-shoes Mary. Whooh, church girls, you gotta watch out for those quiet church girls. They can be wild on the side.
And I imagine at some point Joseph’s buddies at work, sat him down and said: ‘Joseph, Joseph, Joseph. We told you. What are you doing? What are you doing with her? You could have done so much better.’
That’s just how people are. And Joseph would have divorced her except for a dream, a dream that he attributed to God.
I don’t know about you. I’ve had dreams. I have not changed the trajectory of my life based on a dream, I mean, I think that takes an incredible amount of of courage to change the whole plan of your life based on a dream. I mean he could have woke up the next morning, and said man I had some bad matsa yesterday, what was that about? I can’t believe that or maybe I was just too worked up about Mary and the news?
But yet that’s not his response. He accepts this communication from God and takes it to his heart.
And now for Mary, I can’t imagine she slept much that night. There was a law on the books at that time and place… it could have been possible that they could have come, the the men of the village, could have come and stoned Mary as an adulteress because of what transpired during the engagement.
I can imagine Mary that night wondering: ‘God, what kind of God are you? I said yes to you and now the man that I was gonna marry has deserted me. My reputation is ruined. What kind of a God are you?’
I would imagine Joseph wakes from the dream and it’s just around dawn, and he realizes he has been communicating, he’s had an experience with this divine other who is so mysterious and he can’t put it into words. And he throws on his his robe and runs out the door, is going down the street. [As a filmaker], I would have a shot of his sandals flipping up dust down the street as it’s just sunrise, and he’s banging at Mary’s door.
I can imagine Mary’s dad opens the door. ‘Well, young man, what are you doing here? What are your intentions with my daughter? What are you doing here at this hour?’
Joseph just pushes him aside and runs to Mary’s room, and grabs her, and falls on his knees. And says: ‘I believe you. I believe the story the you told me. Forgive me for doubting you, and if you will have me, I will marry you and we will raise this child.’
And I can imagine Mary’s heart explodes. It’s a miracle. How could this happen? 12 hours ago it was devastation. And she grabs him, and he grabs her, and these two poor peasants, in a backwards Palestine, an occupied territory, hold each other and hold on to knowledge that no other human being could possibly understand–this experience of God.
So my sisters, my brothers, my siblings, I’ll say it again. Sometimes it may cost everything, everything we hold dear, for Christ to be born with us, but the great good news of our tradition, is that it’s worth it. It’s worth it. It is worth it. Amen.”