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It is a wonderful moment on Christmas Eve when we light the candles and see the light across the room. Our lights reflect Jesus’ light and Jesus’ presence. The Christmas carol we sing has the words “…all is calm, all is bright…” and that is a moment in the story directly follow the birth of Jesus, but it was hardly that before Jesus’ birth. “Calm” would be the last word to describe the Annunciation to Mary, her pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, their travels, and then the heavenly announcements to the shepherds and royal welcome months later from the Magi.


There was controversy and questioning throughout the whole narrative. Mary wondered how this could be since she hadn’t been with a man sexually. The angel answered her questions. Who would believe her, a young teenager engaged to be married? Have you ever thought about how her family reacted to her, or her friends? Would they have believed her? Even Joseph decided “to put her away quietly” when he received the news, until the angel convinced him otherwise. How do you react to family conflict and conflict with friends? I’m sure Mary was happy to visit Elizabeth and hear her encouragement and solid belief that the baby inside her was like no other.


Then the Romans required Joseph and his family to return to Bethlehem, initiating the fulfillment of the OT promise regarding the Messiah being born there, but also turning Mary and Joseph into refugees. And you know when they got there, there were no airBnBs, no room to rent, no tents, just a barn with animals in the barn. Barns are not the best place to give birth, but Mary didn’t have much choice.


Meanwhile, a heavenly choir interrupted the Shepherds’ evening significantly by, urging them to go see what has happened. They had to leave the sheep to do so, and they did. Did they wonder about leaving the sheep for however long it took them to get to the barn where Mary was? The season was one of interruptions, unplanned interventions by God and angels, unplanned trips to Bethlehem and then to Egypt. Nothing in the Christmas narrative seemed easy.


The Magi planned their trip, but couldn’t have imagined that the current king would want to kill the newborn King. So God had to change their travel plans as well.


So when we think about another Christmas celebration in the midst of the ongoing pandemic soon to be endemic season, let’s remember that the first Christmas season was full of broken human plans, divine interventions, and surprises for just about everyone in the story. Nothing about Christmas came easy. What Jesus did was costly from beginning to end of the Gospel story, for everyone involved in making God’s plan a reality.


I catch myself thinking we will return someday soon to “the way it used to be…” not even being sure as to what that means in a detailed way, but quickly recognize that is unlikely. What we do need to do in times of turmoil is to trust God, trust Jesus anew in the midst of broken human plans, divine interventions and surprises of all kinds. I wish I could tell you it’s going to get easier, but that’s not what I usually read in the Bible. It will get worse before the end. But Jesus has us now, through all that and right up into the new heavens and the new earth, the New Jerusalem, his Father’s house and the great reunion that is coming. There we will have a new definition of “…all is calm and all is bright…”


Please accept my best wishes to you and yours for a blessed Advent, Christmas and New Year’s.


Pastor Jonathan