Who has not gone on a long drive with a child and not heard the whine “Are we there yet?”
Advent is not unlike a long journey and we are all wondering when we will get there; not just the children! We are tired, restless and maybe even a little bit disgruntled as we plod on and never seem to arrive.
And, as seems to happen every year, there is still so much to do and so little time left in which to do it.
We’re not there yet & we’re going to have to wait a little longer. Just as Mary and Joseph had to wait the normal nine months for the time to come for Jesus to be born we too must continue to wait.
While we wait it might be helpful for us if we were able to focus on the preparation, the inner journey and growth and the openness to the work of the Spirit within us.
We have been doing that but we are getting anxious because we are at the point where we can see it from here. We can see the stable of Bethlehem. We can hear the angel choirs in rehearsal and we have heard that the magi are looking round the camel showrooms and are checking out travel insurance. Yet, we must continue to keep our focus. There are still things to ponder.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.
“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”
“I see millions and millions of stars,” Watson replied.
“What does that tell you?” asked Holmes.
Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.
Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.
Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.
Theologically, I can see that God is all- powerful and that we are small and insignificant.
Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.
But tell me, Homes, what does it tell you?”
“Elementary, my dear Watson,” replied Holmes. “Someone has stolen our tent.”
What have we overlooked this year? As we look at the oh-so familiar Christmas story once again this year we need to ask ourselves the question, “What do we see?”
We have heard the Christmas stories so often that we can forget how hard it must have been for Mary and for Joseph to walk that walk. We forget that the situation in which they found themselves, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was dangerous in more ways than one.
They lived in a time of social, religious and political turmoil. The hope for a messiah had been fostered in them for generations.
Perhaps it had been a dream of every little Hebrew girl for generations to give birth to the long expected one.
Perhaps Mary had not even dared to imagine such a thing? But without a husband? Mary ran the danger of public ridicule at the very least – in fact, Joseph would have been within his rights to have her put to death.
But he chose another way, at the direction of the angel, and placed his honour and his reputation in the court of public opinion.
So they were married and became a family. He raised Jesus as his own, always knowing though, that there was something very special about him. Perhaps it is this loving and accepting relationship with Joseph that provided the basis of Jesus’ experience of God as ‘father’
Perhaps Joseph influenced Mary’s son more than we will ever know.
When we seek to interpret this story in today’s context we learn that we can encounter the divine, indeed we can give birth to the divine when we ignore the court of public opinion and do what we believe to be right, fair and just.
When we do what is right despite what it might do to job prospects or reputation we are then able to know what the cost of discipleship is and also its rewards.
Mary and Joseph are models for us of those who step forward in faith, unsure of their road, unsure of what the cost will be, yet sure that God goes with them to guide and protect them.
a footnote …. for many in our society, there is nothing for which to count down. I’m thinking of the homeless and hungry, the folks estranged from their grown up children, the neglected lone pensioner, those alone who are missing a deceased partner or parent or child… for them, there’s nothing to look forward to. There’s no need for preparation. No need to shop, even if they could afford it.
Are we nearly there yet? For so many folk it can’t come quick enough nor go just as rapidly.
May we – in however small a way – a phone call, a donation to a food bank, the giving of even a few Pounds to a charity – bring something of the hope and joy of the Incarnation into the life of those who desperately need to receive the love of God made real.