DAY TWENTY FOUR

Sunday December 24, 2019  written by Rachel VanKirk Mathews

Matthew 1:20-23

 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Growing up, Christmas Eve was a long day full of that same sort anxious excitement that planning and decorating for a party can have. We were getting last minute preparations done for Christmas and preparing our hearts and minds by attending church services. At the least, we had dinner and opened gifts with my mom’s side of the family on Christmas Eve, celebrated midnight mass with my dad’s side of the family at my grandmother’s Catholic church, and still made time to open one gift before going to bed (my siblings and I made sure of that). A day full of anticipation and thoughtful preparation for Christ’s coming. 

Angels speak the words, “Do not be afraid,” many times in the Christmas story- to Mary, the shepherds, and in this story, to Joseph. Granted, they may have said this upon appearing to humans just because it was so frightening to see an angel in real life, but, regardless, pronouncements of dispelling fear is a refrain of Christmas. The angels explain to Joseph that there is no need to fear because the birth of Jesus will mean God is with us. As the season of anticipating Christmas culminates, a season in which we reflected over the urgent and critical needs of our neighbors and our world, may we also be filled with peace and relief. God is with us, even in the most desperate situations. Balance between urgency and restraint, anticipation and peace is hard to achieve and maintain as humans. Perhaps keeping the message of Christmas, Emmanuel, God with us, in our hearts throughout this day and even the year to come will help. If you need to either muster motivation or dispel fear, find a sense of urgency or peace, on this day of heightened activity and anticipation or any day, whisper to yourself Emmanuel, God is with me. 

Peace be with us as we enjoy this anxious, anticipation-filled day, and every day as we navigate the anxious days and years we live in, anticipating the fullness of God’s presence here on earth. 

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