“…until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.”
This is how the writer of Matthew describes the birth of our Lord and Savior, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. Not in flowery prose, but the linguistic gymnastics of the past perfect. –“until she had borne”– Like the birth was a footnote in the larger story.
I often wonder about the power and weight we put into the events which seem to happen “off stage” while the material these writers care about becomes our footnote. For Matthew, that is in Joseph’s going against tradition and protecting his family by escaping into Egypt. That gets the writer’s attention. The birth isn’t even in the present tense.
Perhaps our opportunity this year is to not only make that birth present in our hearts, but make the rest of the story present as well. A story of two parents protecting their child from harm, the paranoid king who would harm him, and three men from Persia who unwittingly unleash the king’s wrath on a whole city. It’s a disturbing story.
But it is also the story of listening to God in the midst of great adversity. A story of overcoming fear and sharing the love of God in the most unlikely of places.
This Christmas, I invite you to hear the story again, not only as the birth of Jesus, but as the beginning of a much bigger story. A story for which we are all called to write our own chapters. May they be driven by love and mercy.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Andrew Downs
Rector, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church