God has shown strength . . . lifted up the lowly . . . shown mercy . . . done great things for all of us …
(Based on Mary’s Magnificat)
Christmas is a time of not only celebrations and giving each other gifts. It is also a time to reflect on what this special season means to all of us, our families, friends and communities. We invite each one to journey with us in this reflection on the birth of Jesus and what this means for us.
Let us begin with Joseph’s dream. When Joseph discovers that Mary, who was betrothed to him, was with child, he plans to divorce her quietly but then an angel from God appears to him in a dream and says, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home, for the child that is born to her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus [the Saviour] who comes to save all from their sins”. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do, he took his wife into his home” (Mt 1:18-24).
Through, this encounter with God in a dream, Joseph changes course by a response of faith, courage and trust. Thus, this action paves the way for the fulfillment of God’s plan of a Saviour, one who is conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Joseph’s attentiveness to God’s call with courage and boldness and Mary’s open, magnanimous ‘Yes’ – “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke, 1:38) means that we can now recognize in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, as announced by the prophet Isaiah.
In fact, Joseph’s greatness and strength lies in the fact that he welcomes God’s initiative, and in this, he is intimately in tune with what Mary was experiencing. This response challenges our slowness and indifference in responding to God’s call today and comes to awaken us. But, more importantly, in reference to Joseph’s encounter with God, is the reflection on the challenges both Joseph and Mary faced in responding to God’s call in their particular context. For instance, for Joseph, his assessment of the revelation of the dream and discretion on action to take was a heroic form of non-violence when reflected amid complex, revolting or desperate situations, such as Mary and Joseph lived. This is no different to some of the experiences we have today in our homes, within the community, in Church settings and the global contexts. In all these situations we find ourselves, from time to time, acting aggressively, threatening others, being stubborn and often choosing violence as opposed to being in solidarity in the difficult journey of the Gospel – the call to love all, even one’s enemies; indeed to be the ‘Good Samaritan’. It is in these circumstances that we are invited to adopt Mary and Joseph’s way of engaging and having an open disposition to God’s call – to listen, to love, bring forth and nurture life. But one does not nurture life through threats, destruction, and discrimination, lack of care, and indifference to acts of injustice or even extermination. Most importantly, nurturing life always begins from within, and therefore, we need to constantly practice patience, to be in an open disposition so that we can hear and respond with love to God’s call each day. Let us, therefore, listen and draw from the only source of life, the heart of God manifested in Jesus, – Emmanuel, the reconciler of all peoples and the whole of God’s Creation. Let our soul magnify the Lord this Christmas 2022 and New Year 2023.