First of all, I need to give credit to Marie Elliott for the subject of this reflection. In her recent financial report, she concluded by reminding us that there are only five months until Christmas.
This is one of the weeks when we aren’t having a worship service at the church. Were we getting together, I’m sure I would have led another “Christmas In July” service. We have done it in years past on the Sunday in July closest to the 25th. Marilyn Schmiedel roots out our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree and Lois gets ready to play some of the Christmas Carols that dominate our Advent and Christmas Eve services.
Christmas is a season of hope and optimism. Perhaps we should be celebrating Christmas every month closest to the 25th until we can say that the virus is past.
How can we not love the story told in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels? Starting with Elizabeth and Zechariah, the priest who is struck dumb because he asks the wrong questions. Ending then with Wise men who venture from the East, initially thinking that Herod is someone to be trusted and then discovering otherwise. After they enrich the young family with significant gifts, they choose to sneak out of town by a back way rather than have to deal with the evil that is in Herod’s heart.
We can’t forget the shepherds, given front row seats to a celestial choir and being the first to see the baby in the manger outside of some midwives and Mary and Joseph themselves. All of these events are like the additional acts in a Shakespearean play. They add depth to the story, but they are there only to support the main character in the play and that is Mary.
Here we have a young woman of 13 or 15 years of age, biologically ready for marriage who has the most unique experience of being visited by an angel who identifies himself as Gabriel, of whom Hebrew Scripture acknowledge as being in the upper hierarchy of the angelic host.
The news he has for Mary is rather unsettling. She will have a baby and her child will be the promised Messiah whose kingdom will last forever. Mary is forward enough to question this plan for her life as she and Joseph aren’t yet married so this sounds rather far-fetched. (that last part of her question is my own speculation). Unlike with Zechariah, Gabriel is a little more patient with Mary and gives her answers meant to encourage her, and it works. Mary says whatever will be will be. Whatever God has in store for me. I’m okay with it.
Then there’s a final statement in Luke 1: 38 that I have overlooked before. The meeting ends with “Then the angel departed from her”. Hang on…Isn’t he going to hang around and be with Mary when she tries to explain this to her parents? Why doesn’t he accompany her to the well when she joins the other young women getting water? Why doesn’t he clue them all in, amazing them with his power when they look at Mary and say,” No way girl. What have you been drinking?”
“The angel departed from her”. It’s God’s understanding that she has the strength to handle whatever she has to deal with in this most unusual story of what is to become her life.
When the child grows and matures and begins doing the work of Messiah, Jesus is continually telling us that we can handle whatever comes our way. And we aren’t to try and deal with life under our own power. God is with us through whatever.
In what we refer to as His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, Jesus tells us to quit fretting about the difficulties we may face in life because “It’s no good worrying about tomorrow because each tomorrow can contain a whole new set of worries.” Instead, trust that God knows what we need and will support us in the pains we may be called to deal with.
He suggested we never forget to share with God the concerns and questions we may have. In Matthew 7: 7-11 he says we should be people who ask, seek and figuratively knock, knock, knock on heaven’s door (I think there’s a song in there somewhere).
It’s good psychology. Talking with God in prayer beats talking ourselves into a state of anxiety.
And there is definitely a lot of anxiety in our world at the moment. I’ve had to pull myself away from watching CNN as much as I would like. This on the instructions from Pam. There’s not a lot of good news. From government dysfunction, to the upward spiraling numbers of the Covid-19 virus along with our concerns about how or even whether our children or grandchildren should be going back to school.
Last but probably least of our worries is watching the Jays play in the States without any fans in the stands as the manager comes out to replace the pitcher in a face mask.
Everything seems upside down at the moment.
At the end of Jesus time with us, He promised that those who followed Him would be supported by His Spirit, continuing to help and guide and lead us through any difficulties. I think we would agree that Covid-19 is more than a difficulty. It’s a danger to our physical health and our mental health so don’t deal with it alone.
Then there’s the sound advice to reach out for help from others should your experience of dealing with the epidemic be too much for you to handle at the moment.
Marie reminded us that we are just five months away from a time of great joy and celebration. There’s no reason to wait five months. We can be Christmas people now. Living in the confidence of God’s joyful presence in our lives.