Grace and peace to you in this holy season!

I write you in hopes you are finding peace and joy in the culmination of this holiday season.

As we prepare for Jesus’ coming on Christmas morning, I invite you to ponder what Mary and Joseph must have been experiencing in their final days of getting ready for his birth.

In a matter of minutes, Mary and Joseph’s life changed forever. Here they were, a young couple preparing to marry and live out a normal small town life as a carpentry family when Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her what was about to happen.

The journey from the moment Gabriel appeared to Mary to Jesus’ first night breathing and sleeping as one of us in that little feeding trough is a remarkable transitional period in the history of the world. There was the time she spent with Elizabeth when John leapt in her womb at his arrival. There was the dream that Joseph had instructing him to still take Mary as his wife because her baby was of the Holy Spirit and he was to name the baby Jesus. Then, when the time was drawing near for her to deliver, there was a Roman decree demanding they travel to Bethlehem for a census. What must that moment have been like? Then, upon coming to the inn and finding that because of the census all the space was taken, how must they have felt walking out to sleep in the barn for the night?

Friends, living in the hope and expectation of God coming to dwell in our midst is a bit like what I imagine bungee jumping must be like. You are standing on the precipice, looking down, and you must step off and trust that the chord will keep you safe. Getting ready for the coming of new life can be an intense and stressful period that in the final days culminates in worried expectation.

The moment of Christmas is upon us. God in Christ is eminently expected. I pray that regardless of the stress or worries that can be a part of everyday life in this world, particularly the preparations of this time of year, Christmas morning finds us a community of faith that can take a deep sigh of relief. He has come, he has arrived. Being ready is not a requirement for his coming. Getting everything to look, taste, smell, or feel right is not a precursor for his arrival. On that first Christmas, nothing was as Mary and Joseph would have planned, but he came anyway, and because he did we need not worry about anything beyond receiving him joyfully.

Merry Christmas everyone. May God’s appearing offer you freedom and peace.