Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve thoughts

In the drab Nativity movie Mary is presented as a sullen teen who complains about being betrothed to man she doesn't know or love. This is silly. Nazareth was an itty bitty little town. Everybody knew everybody. It was in the eyes of the other Gallileans, a crummy little backwoods place.

To this insignificant hamlet the angel of God, Gabriel came. An old hymn describes him as having wings of snow drift white and eyes like flame. I like that description it sounds like he was an awesome sight. And who did he come to? A young girl. Mary, just 14 or 15 and this angel asked her to be the mother of the messiah. Imagine that for minute. And Mary said yes. She said, "I am the Handmaid of the Lord." Archbishop Sheen once noted that in Aramaic she actually said, "I am the slave of the Lord." What perfect trust. What perfect acceptance. Oh thank you, dear Mother!

And think for a moment of Joseph. A good man, probably a young man ( the Jews of that day didn't like May-December marriages) already on his way to being a saint even then. When friends or neighbors approached him remarked rudely on Mary's pregnancy he had the presence of mind to say nothing. He knew the Child in her womb was not his but knowing Mary he surely couldn't have imagined that she did anything wrong. He would not denounce her to the world. He would not expose her to a death sentence. He decided to divorce her quietly. Divorce, not break off an engagement but actuall divorce. Mary was not an unwed mother. It makes me sick when people say that, especially if it's a priest. A betrothed couple were married under the law. They weren't living together yet but they were married.

And then the angel spoke to Joseph and he believed. He did not argue like the educated priest Zachariah did. He didn't complain that this Event was going to change his life forever. He simply believed and quickly had the wedding ceremony performed and moved Mary into his home. Thank you dear Saint Joseph. You did not care what the neighbors and your buddies said, you rushed to obey the Lord and to protect your little bride.

And then the day came to go to Bethlehem. It couldn't have been an easy trip. The pictures of Mary on a donkey look sweet but that's no luxury ride. But she and Jospeh knew their scripture. The Messiah was foretold as coming out of Bethehem, David's city. So she went. Bethlehem is a small town. Once Rocky and I were in Blacksburg and were trying to find a hotel for the night. Alas there was a football game that night and there were no rooms to be had as far as West Virginia. When Mary and Joseph arrived every inn was full of people come to pay their taxes. Inns in those days were simple affairs. One might have two or three private rooms and a courtyard where poorer guests could bed down with their animals and other people. No woman would want to have a baby under those circumstances. Commentators have guessed that Mary asked for privacy and Joseph wanted her to have it. They couldn't get a room and for some reason didn't want to join the swarm in the open courtyard or just staying with one of the caravans that surely must have been surrounded Bethehem that night. Some inn keeper offered them his stable. I hope he didn't charge them too much for it.

The Child was born. Thank you, God for sending Your only Son. Thank you Jesus for leaving Heaven and coming to the world as a tiny Babe. You came not to live a pleasant life but to die. The Cross loomed over Your cradle. You came on a rescue mission to reclaim hopeless sinners. Thank you Lord!

Merry Christmas dear readers and blog friends!


Carolina Cannonball said...

Merry Christmas! I hope you are having a wonderful time- judging from the lenghty blog absence :-)

My favorite part of the story was how Joseph immidiately got up & obeyed the angle.. how many of us would have sat there in the dark and said "it was just a dream" then called our relatives the next day & ran the dream by them to get their opinions... before doing anything- if anything at all. You know, deciding the dream must have been a resutl of some spoiled meat and indegestion.

Dymphna said...

Merry Chrismas to you in Carolina!
I'm having a blast. The more I read the gospels, the more I appeciate St. Joseph and how awesome he must have been.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"the Jews of that day didn't like May-December marriages"


I have heard both versions, the other one being he was a widower. And that St James the Lesser was his son from the previous marriage.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"But she and Jospeh knew their scripture. The Messiah was foretold as coming out of Bethehem, David's city. So she went."

Now, they knew the Scriptures, but they also followed the order about the census.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Happy Easter! by the way!