Rob's message for January
In the run-up to Christmas, we were looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of Mary. We followed her through the shock of her pregnancy announcement, right up to the birth of Jesus, and we watched her interaction with her husband Joseph and her cousin Elizabeth, herself unexpectedly pregnant with a baby who would become John the Baptist.
By the time you read this at the beginning of January, we will be up to the point in the story where the wise men come and visit Jesus. Lots of people think that this wasn’t a matter of 12 days, but that it took many months for them to follow the star and find their way to Jesus, who was a toddler living with Mary and Joseph in a family home by now.
How did Mary feel by this point, I wonder? She was looking ahead into an uncertain future, and wondering what the next months and years would hold. She couldn’t have known at this point that almost as soon as the wise men were gone, she and Joseph would have to flee with Jesus to Egypt until the danger of Herod subsided. Perhaps she always intended that she would return to Nazareth, her hometown, and would have known very little about the path that her son’s life was going to take her on, to the foot of his cross on Good Friday. Maybe she and Joseph just felt like lots of new parents; yes, a bit tired and stressed, but full of a sense of the promise of new life.
It might be that you find yourself in one of these situations as a New Year starts. All promise, and the hope of new life. It might not be a baby, but perhaps it’s a new job, a new home, or a sense that things will be better in 2024. Maybe the future feels uncertain, with work or family circumstances suggesting there will need to be change, or things might get harder before they get better. Or the New Year might take you in a direction that you didn’t expect at all.
It's worth noticing that in the ups and downs of Mary and Joseph’s story, Jesus is always present. That seems obvious to us now, because he was their son, but it wasn’t a given; when the angel appears to Mary it feels that she has to agree to be part of the plan: “May it be to me according to your Word,” she says. It’s the same for Joseph: they have to agree to welcome Jesus into their lives in order for him to be with them.
The presence of Jesus with us is the greatest gift we can ever receive in this life, especially as we manage all of its ups and downs, but it isn’t forced on us: it’s something that we too have to say yes to. One of my favourite lines from the carols, which I would happily sing at every service before Christmas, says just that: “No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.” Perhaps as a New Year begins, Jesus is calling you to receive him, so that his presence will be with you whatever this year and this life will hold, and so that he will lead you into eternity with him.
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