Blessed 4th Sunday of Advent!
Each Advent season, we prepare to welcome Jesus into the inns and stables of our hearts. But Jesus’ coming wasn’t welcomed by everyone with choirs of angels. For St. Joseph, the first coming of Jesus was a bit more complicated. “When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” For Joseph, opening his heart (and home) to Jesus meant, at best, appearing to all the world like a man who had impregnated his wife out of wedlock. At worst, he appeared a cuckold, raising the child of another man. God doesn’t always appear the way we expect.
For some of us, the birth of Christ is a bit relationally complicated. Perhaps over the past few months, a loved one has died. This Christmas, you’re taking it upon yourself to keep up the traditions and hold the family together. Welcoming Jesus means welcoming grief. Perhaps it’s a difficult relative (or two or three) and it’s all you can do to bite your tongue and swallow your pride while they’re under your roof. Welcoming Jesus means welcoming strife, discord, and tension.
Yet “do not be afraid,” the angel says. Do not be afraid. Why? Because we celebrate the birth of “Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Before Jesus’ earthly ministry would begin, Jesus would lose his father, Joseph. God is with us in our grief. Wherever Jesus went, he stirred up controversy and faced down challenging personalities. God is with us in our stress. The trick is, like Joseph, to allow supernatural grace to prevail. Joseph was a good man, filled with natural virtue in that he didn’t want to “expose [Mary] to shame.” Yet he was prepared to “divorce her quietly” all the same. Our natural abilities only take us so far. Where is receiving Jesus complicated this Christmas season? Are you relying on your own strength to get you through, or are you truly ready to accept the grace of Emmanuel, God with us.