We open the scene at Christmas with a young mother. We aren’t entirely sure of how she feels or how she will cope. There is no narration of her thoughts as she journeys towards Bethlehem. We do not know her doubts and fears. We do not know how she felt about being pregnant so young. Maybe she was an old soul, created by God to be the mother she needed to be. Maybe she was young and unburdened by the responsibilities that lay ahead. Either way there would be complications later on. We’ve read his story. We know the pain she will feel when she loses him. Whoever Mary was, she was what was needed. She made a choice to listen and obey even when doubts might’ve played in her mind. She made a choice.
As we move into the story we meet Joseph. A man who loved a woman. Who had pledged his life to hers. She becomes pregnant. There are questions. Will he? Won’t he? What is a man to do? His community will judge him for staying. They may even shun the family. What comes next he doesn’t know but he listens to that voice, to the one who tells him to stay. He listens and trusts. He makes a choice and walks forwards in faith but is not unaware of what could happen. There are worries and doubts but he pushes back. He must keep going. He made a choice.
They travel far. They journey together, partners on a path that no one else knows they are on. There is a birth. It is messy and chaotic. There are no midwives or obstetricians, no drugs or is or surgery if anything goes wrong. They are alone, together. They cannot turn back no matter how much either one wants to. This birth will happen, in a stable of of all places. The baby arrives and they like every parent are fully hit with the realization that this child is dependent upon them. Mary feeds her child. She awkwardly wraps him in cloths they have dug out of their packs. Her body aches from the work it has just done. Struggling as new mothers do with fatigue and exhilaration, she cannot settle. She needs to sleep but longs to look at her tiny child. Fatigue eventually wins and she sleeps alongside Joseph, vulnerable and scared. Together they lay in that stable. That fortress built for animals becomes their temporary home. The dirt, the wind, the animals and their smells surround them in their first home together.
Things don’t get easier. As they raise Jesus, they find themselves vulnerable to outside forces. Vulnerability is something we all face. In life we are vulnerable to the whims of others. Choices that are made by people who are not known to us have the power to affect us in ways we cannot even fathom. As people we are dependent upon one another. We are all connected. We are all intwined. We like to think we’re not. We like to think we’re independent beings but this isn’t entirely true. Each choice we make impacts this earth and the people who live on it. Each choice we make has the potential to bring good or spread evil. Each choice we make does in fact make a difference in one way or another.
I think that is what makes this story so remarkable. God makes a choice. As we chose things everyday, so too did God choose. He chose to cloak himself in vulnerability. God chose to release power and might and embrace vulnerability so we might know him more fully. God chose to open himself up to harm and pain so that we might see what it means to truly live. God made a choice. God chose us.
May the coming year bring you joy and blessings. May we find ways together to choose peace, to spread light in the world and speak truth to those who need it. Merry Christmas.