18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah* took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;* and he named him Jesus.
We found out she was coming the day we left our old life in Staten Island and moved in across the street from the Seminary in Philadelphia, where I was to attend school for the next four years, in preparation for the Ordained Ministry. A wise man once told me that “Man plans while God laughs!” and on that day I understood that old bit of wisdom…as the news of her impending arrival changed everything.
Of course I was happy, excited, but was also afraid, and overwhelmed, as we had just made a major change in our lives. We had wanted children, but earlier that year, after having lost a pregnancy and with my decision to go back to school, we had decided to wait a little while before trying again…man plans, while God laughs.
The news threw us for a loop, and we even gave brief thought to simply packing up and going back to New York and trying to pick up our old lives again; however, we soon got over the panic and began to get ready for the new baby, despite that fact that we were going to be on a tight budget while I was also in school.
Being in school was actually a positive thing for us, since we decided that my wife could work at night after her Maternity leave, and I could set my class schedule for the second year of school so that I would have most of my afternoons and evenings free, thus avoiding having to pay for child care.
Then, as the winter turned to spring, we began to work on our small, one bedroom apartment, in order to accommodate the baby, we moved furniture, set up a hand-me-down crib, and changing table; then, at the shower, we got the gifts, lots of gifts…and our little home became filled with baby clothes, baby toys and baby furniture.
We had also had gotten advice from family and friends with kids, had taken the birthing and baby classes, read the “What to Expect” books…and by the time the spring flowers were blooming we felt we were as ready as we could be…
However, despite all of our preparation…when the baby finally arrived (right during final exams!) we felt so very unprepared; and looking back now, from almost 20 years of hindsight, I realize now that there really was no way to be entirely ready, as parenthood contains so many surprises, mistakes, joys and simply overwhelming moments, and that I have had to expect the unexpected, and learn as I went along…especially after becoming a single father (which was also not something that I expected to have to face).
In reading today’s lesson, we can see that in many ways Mary and Joseph were not unlike other young couples who have just learned that they are going to have a baby: confused, excited, upset, and a little scared…but then they had the added anxiety of having been told that the child they are about to bring into the world will be unlike any other…as he will be the Son of God! It must have been hard for them to understand, especially Joseph, who sort of came late to the party, and got caught up in things so much bigger than he was.
It must have taken a lot of faith for Mary and Joseph them to believe what the angels told them; and even more faith to continue to prepare the way, not only for their baby’s birth, but for what their lives would be like as they raised the child. Like us, despite all they might have done to get ready for the baby they still probably had to learn as they went along…make a lot of mistakes, and have a lot of faith that God was with them and that they and their family would be alright in the end.
Today, as we approach the celebration of Christmas we too are preparing the to welcome the baby Jesus into the world…although we may not always know how to prepare, we do the best we can: we decorate, we worship, we sing carols, we bake, we shop and we get ready…but once the moment arrives, in the silence of the manger, poised on the transformation of our world, all that preparation may not mean much…just as with our own children; once we welcome the baby Jesus into the world, and the promise of Christ into our lives we often have to simply move forward in faith, and pray that we will do the best we can in regard to sharing God’s love with the world, with each other, and with our children!!!
As single parents we have grown accustomed to having to expect the unexpected, to think on our feet, and have learned the wisdom of the old saying about how God laughs at our plans…but then, as it usually works out, God’s plans are better than ours, and we do manage to keep moving forward, one day at a time, celebrating Christ in the world, and sharing God’s love in our lives.
Let us Pray
God, thank you for the gift of Christ…for coming into the world in the only way we could understand you: as an innocent child born in a stable. Thank you for wanting to be one of us, and for wanting to restore our relationship. Help us to also seek to build upon our relationship with you, through building faith in ourselves, and in our children. Help us also to reach out to those outside of our group of family and friends, to share your good news with all we come into contact with…even those who say they do not believe…as Christmas is a time to share your love with all the world, and to restore our faith, to give us strength for the trials to come.