This Sunday we draw close to the mystery of Christmas. In only a few verses Matthew (1:18-25) sums up the whole story of the embodiment of God’s love in the birth of Jesus. What is Matthew trying to tell us in this story that often gets reduced to the phrase “the virgin birth”? It has something to do with the idea that in a dangerous and difficult time God is present in the world, working in remarkable ways through seemingly unremarkable people—like Joseph and Mary. Matthew picks up an old word for this—Emmanuel–a Hebrew word used by the prophet Isaiah who told another story about God being present in dangerous times through the birth of a seemingly unremarkable baby (Isaiah 7: 10-16). In our dangerous and difficult time—think Russian cyberattacks, the immense tragedy unfolding in Aleppo, the poverty revealed at our food pantry each week, the griefs we all bear—where is the God of love? The word “Emmanuel” can be translated: “The God Who Is Always With Us”—my title. How is God with us in our lives and world? I’m intrigued that in Matthew, Joseph discovers the nearness of God as he sleeps, in his dreams. What does that tell us about God? That’s where my thoughts begin. Come find out where that thought leads.
Also, this Sunday our children will help draw us into the beauty and wonder of Christmas as they share an elegant Pageant with us. There will be costumes, words, and songs that will tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Bev Krol has written the narrative and composed the songs. Ann Roche has guided the children and crafted the costumes. And all the rest of us will get to enjoy the experience of seeing Christmas through young eyes and hearts. We will also light our fourth Advent Candle—the Candle of Love. We will sing both Advent and Christmas carols—but we have to wait for Christmas Eve for the most majestic and familiar carols (they proclaim the joyous birth which is still a few days away). And the Chancel Choir will present a tender French Carol as an anthem. In the cold of December as the nights grow long and the days so short, we discover deep down a source of hope and fiery light that can warm our souls and guide our steps as we seek to walk into the new world of God’s desiring. This is what Christmas is about as we gather for worship on these cold and holy days.
PS. At Thursday’s Pantry it was bitterly cold and yet there was a festive air in Barrett Hall as we crafted greens into swags with colorful bows and pine cones. With tables overflowing with evergreen branches we had such fun creating beauty for many families who get by on so little. Was this its own sign of “Emmanuel”—of a new day coming? That’s my dream. May such dreams find fulfillment just as Joseph’s dream was fulfilled. Peace.
PS. from Cindy Dickinson: The Berkshire Lyric will present its Christmas concert on Saturday, December 17, at 7:30 pm at St. Stephen’s Church in Pittsfield. Several members of our Chancel Choir, as well as several children from the church, are part of this annual performance of sacred and secular seasonal music. For more information, visit www.berkshirelyric.org.