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December 23, 2019

Scripture Matthew 1:18–25

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Matthew 1:24-25 NRSV

There are few things that grab our attention in our scripture reading like the stories of the conception of the Christ child in Matthew and Luke (1:26-56). During Advent and Christmas, we all come together and sing boldly to the high heavens about it in song and Word in worship. So, unlike the efforts of Joseph to keep things quiet there was nothing quiet about the news of Mary’s conception for most of us. In fact, for Joseph and Mary it was a revelation. But, look at the reaction of Joseph as portrayed in Matthew. In opposing Jewish law, he was bold and brilliantly effective. He took his betrothed and cared for her and loved her and cherished her, along with the new child given them to rear and care for and to cherish. Truly, this was a divine gift from God.

Of course, if we limit ourselves to Joseph, or Mary, then we are omitting the most important portion of this concept of divine origin for Jesus: And, that is God. The early founders and leaders of the church had little difficulty with this, because of their reverence for God. Our reaction is much more muted, because we have a wealth of experience that is founded in, and filtered through, scientific research and knowledge. And, this is what informs us, confirming our understanding of the process of conception and forming new life in those terms of science. Opposed to that is God. And, like it or not God is not measurable and is undetectable in any direct physical sense.

So, the central aspect in these verses is God. If we are able to accept that, then God’s Spirit is responsible for the Immaculate Conception, however that occurred. Rightfully, this activity of God should be held in reverence and awe. And, with this being an act of Almighty God, there is little to defend here: Because, God is all-powerful and all-knowing. Today, many want to equate this aspect of faith to fantasy or even superstition. But, for those of us who do believe in God and who understand God as sovereign and ruler of all there is no disconnect here at all. This is because we understand and accept God as author of all that we know and see.

In this final portion of the Advent season, just as God worked through Joseph and Mary we are molded and shaped and transformed by God through Jesus Christ. Through the power of God, we are remade and reborn: transformed into persons of action, agents of change who are needed and vital for God’s work in a confusing and conflicted world which challenges and surrounds you and me.

Stan Reid

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