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The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:
Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).
Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus. Luke 1:18-25 (from The Message)
by Bill Mallonee
Christmas–most of humankind’s wildest, most noble hopes are wrapped up in flesh & blood of him who they call Jesus, the Savior of the world.
He came at a time when the ancient world was filled with brutality and fear, heavy-handed rule and political ambition.
It was a world starving for love. Social caste systems were inviolable and military might made right.
Into that world is born Jesus Christ.
Vulnerable, helpless, lacking any worldly credentials that would have put one ahead.
He came with authority.
He came with healing power.
He came with a special love for the poor,
He came to those who knew their own skin and what shabbiness dwelt beneath that skin.
He came with Beatitudes of the Kingdom; ones that turned the values of the day upside down. And He came with a Sermon on the Mountain guaranteed to blow your mind. That text alone was the internalization (and one might add, simplification) of everything Yahweh had been trying to teach His people for centuries.
And here it was falling from the lips of a Jewish carpenter; laid out in bold, poetic, immediate terms.
Authorities and bureaucrats tend to have no time for exceptions to the rule.
Things were no different back in the time of Christ.
Here was Jesus, born of low-estate, from a back-water Galilean town delivering his message as a self-styled rabbi.
In the end, it was more than the authorities & Jerusalem blue-bloods of his day could handle. But that’s another story…
His message, indeed his whole Person, was an upheaval to the individual heart and the whole social order of the day; Straight-forward and without compromise.
His message and his very life was a “first shall be last and last shall be first” politic of the heart.
He preached the intimate Love & Tenderness of the Father towards the repentant sinner. He scandalized the his followers to address God as Abba. “Papa.” “Daddy.”
He claimed equality with the Lord who made Heaven & Earth, and insisted that one’s response to him was also the same response to His Father.
He preached a Kingdom that was only beginning to stir among men & women; and he proclaimed that its membership encompassed everyone.
Me? I knew at an early age all the joys and expectations of Advent & Christmas narratives (whether they are history or memories nuanced with touches of zealous imagination.) They seeped into this small child’s imagination and have been inspiring him ever since.
Later, as an adult and as a songwriter, I was fortunate to attend a small house-church fellowship for many years in Athens, Georgia. The solid, informed biblical teaching began to orient me towards God’s way of seeing things;
Including how he sees me in Christ.
The New Testament writers were a varied lot. Different backgrounds, different audiences. But all of them were united in gathering the facts concerning Jesus and his work, reporting his words and deeds…and then wrestling with the implications of this One Life, the very Light of the World. The very Light that came that first Christmas and continues to come into our broken, weary, sin-sick hearts and world.
Jesus. Emmanuel. “God With Us.”
So deep and wide and broad in his Love and Concern for each of us that one could never sound the depths of it.
Jesus. The Mystery we are called to love in return, no matter how stumbling our steps.
It often happens that the people who are supposed to “represent” him here do the worst and bloodiest damage throughout humankind’s dismal history. I have all sympathy with those for feel they must turn away from such representations of Christ, the man of Peace.
But, Christ takes us where we’re at.
I’m convinced he’s more concerned about each of us learning his heart.
It’s all right there in the New Testament.
Immerse yourselves in it. Pray over its texts, its words, its demands, its implications.
Take a risk: Ask Jesus to help you apply it to your own heart and situations. He will not fail to teach you; not fail to lavish his Mercy upon you, nor fail to lead you into his Truth.
“Your Redeemer lives.”
He is near…
As the Christmas Gospel proclaims Our Emmanuel, “God with us.”
Experience his Spirit, quietly and steadfastly at work within you.
You will find such a balm is healing for the soul.
And then the learning to walk. Do any of us ever really get past this?
I remember memorizing Psalm 51, one of the Bible’s penitential psalms, just to have it ready-reference as I walked or jogged; It was a way of prompting contrition and reminding myself of the Lord’s lovingkindness.
Yes. That trying our best to live out that Kingdom life; that all-too-frequent picking ourselves from our failures, dusting ourselves off and beginning again. However stumbling we may be in our first steps. We begin, by accepting our acceptance.
We begin by recognizing our deep need and broken-ness. An empty cup he seems to be all-too-ready to fill.
Then the simple exchanges of talking to him daily & listening become a way of transformation from within and into the world in which we live.
We get used to living in our own skin.
And one thing more:
And we learn to love the spirits of our fellow travelers.
Our brothers & sisters.
And maybe, by God’s Grace, even our enemies.
The world is starving for such manifestations of that Love.
Joy & courage on your journey,
Bill Mallonee is an Americana artist with 70+ albums, spanning a 20 year career. Paste Music Magazine named him #65 in their prestigious “Top 100 Living Songwriters” poll. He fronted the band Vigilantes of Love from 1991-2001. Bill and his wife, Muriah, live in New Mexico. His work can be found, listened to, and purchased at www.billmalloneemusic.bandcamp.com