Scripture for reflection: Matthew 1:18-25
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20
An unplanned pregnancy can be a messy problem for an unmarried couple or an unexpected miracle in God’s Hands. We can only imagine the struggles of Joseph with the demons of confusion, doubts, and fears when Mary told him that she was pregnant. It took much courage and faith for Joseph to do God’s will – to take Mary as his wife instead of leaving her to be a single mother. By doing so, he earned his place in history as the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The Christmas stories of Joseph and Mary are more than historical autobiographies – they are the beautiful and wonderful sacred and metaphorical stories to open our eyes to the movements of the grace of God in our lives.
Joseph became the greatest husband in all history by hearing the voice of the angel in his dream and obeying God’s will for his life. The heart of Christmas is our response to God’s invitation to have Christ born in our hearts. It is our “spiritual biography”1 and not our autobiography that is eternal. Spiritual biography is discovering the story of God’s grace in our lives. It is the journey to explore the glimpses of grace and the moments of transformation in our lives through contemplation on the way of the cross.
A few weeks before Christmas this year, I journeyed through the valley of the shadow of death with a loved one who was dangerously ill with the coronavirus in the ICU. I was touched by God’s amazing grace as I witnessed the miracle of healing in our family member. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made.2 It gave me a foretaste and a hunger for heaven in the here and now. On Christmas day this year, one of the songs in the worship service was “Christmas Isn’t Christmas” and it brought to mind the Christmas Eve cantata service I attended in 1986 during which the pastor made the point that Christmas is not Christmas unless it is Christmas in our hearts. Christmas is a time to remember that it is only Christmas when there is room in our hearts for Jesus.
In 1986, this message had struck a chord in me as a few months before Christmas in 1986, we were shocked by the diagnosis of cancer in our sister in law who later passed away in July 1987. But it was so difficult to live out this truth when life got better after the storms of life have passed. In his Christmas message this year, Bishop Robert Solomon made the insightful observation that it is not Jesus who pass us by – we are the ones who have passed by the moments of grace when there is no room in our hearts for Christ. Over the past 2 years, the practice of silence provided me with a discipline to give my heart to Jesus by presenting my body as a living sacrifice to God.3
In the face of an unknown and unexpected future we need, like Joseph, to hear God’s message – “do not be afraid.” Jesus did not come to give us a ticket to heaven but to empower us to bring heaven to earth – to bring joy to the world. Our faith in Jesus is the beacon of hope in a world of despair. To keep the flame of hope alive in our hearts we need to be in touch with the Holy Spirit. But the virtual world of the Internet, through social media, computer games and innovations like the Metaverse, draws us further and further away from the physical reality of God’s Universe as well as the spiritual reality of life.
We are tempted to spend our time in the virtual world created by humans instead of embarking on the adventure to seek our Divine Lover who is waiting patiently for us in the depths of our hearts. We are called to journey into the silence of the heart of God – to be still in the holy presence of God.4 The church victorious is the church at rest.5 Practising silence is the simple way to open our hearts and minds to the Spirit of God – to be in touch with the angels of God in the spiritual world. This is so much more edifying than spending time interacting with virtual friends in the social media or the avatars of our human imagination in the virtual world of the Internet.
Covid 19 is the Cyrus of the 21st century – humbling the nations6 and drawing us to seek a future pregnant with hope in the silent and holy night when the Christ Child was born. The good news is that Jesus has given us the beatitudes as the keys to the kingdom of heaven.7 Let us embark the journey to have Christmas in our hearts each day in 2022 as we listen for God’s messages to “fear not” so that our fears can become the “footprints of grace” as we step out in faith to live out the beatitudes. The season of Christmastide is a time to begin living a life that is totally invested in God. Let us not keep Jesus in the manger or in the tomb in our hearts. Let us seek the grace of God to become the Body of Christ and a temple for the Holy Spirit.
Lord, it is so easy to be distracted in our modern world. Help me to hear the voices of Your angels so that I may have an obedient and humble heart like Joseph.
What is God calling me to do in the new year?
What are the fears that I need to overcome?
How can I listen for “angel voices” each day?
Song of Praise:
There is a Hope8
- “Spiritual biography” has been described by Kathleen Dowling Singh in her book, “The Grace In Living,” as the process of learning “to trust and have confidence in the exquisite, indestructible attraction of our love for the sacred and the sacred’s love for us.” It is looking at our struggles, pain and sorrow beyond self – from heaven’s perspective – to recollect the movements of the grace and presence of God. For the Christian, it is the journey of sanctification – to die to self, to be reborn ,and to become a new creation of God.
- Psalms 139:14
- Romans 12:1
- Psalms 37:7
- The Church’s One Foundation
- Isaiah 45:1
- Matthew 5:3-10
- Stuart Townend – There Is A Hope