Discover an underlying silence within
- As we’ve made our way through the different sessions of this retreat, you will have been led through a number of different ways of becoming more still and focussed. You’ll have drawn on the experience of your own breathing, of noticing the different sensations in your body, of calmly observing the ebb and flow of your thoughts and feelings. By concentrating on a physical object you have been led into stillness, and by paying attention to the sounds around you you’ve been able to discover an underlying silence within. Take a moment to recall some of these methods, and see if you can remember one of them that seemed to work well for you.
Find whatever peace you can in all that surrounds you
- If there is one of these techniques that you have found helpful, take a few moments now to lead yourself through it. Don’t worry if you can’t remember the details of how it was presented here, just let your own sense of how things work lead you deeper into stillness and silence. If you are new to these methods, you might prefer today simply to sit quietly now and find whatever peace you can in all that surrounds you, as you prepare yourself to hear the scripture passage that follows immediately after Matthew’s list of the ancestors of Jesus.
Matthew 1: 18 - 24
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.
God’s plan is fulfilled
- In Matthew’s eyes, this is the moment at which the work that God has been doing through the centuries comes to fruition. He has listed the names of people from forty-two generations, and in each one of them God has been getting ready. Now, with the birth of Jesus to Joseph and Mary, God’s plan is fulfilled. Take a moment to reflect upon and appreciate the scope of God’s work through all this length of time.
- It’s clear from what is written here that the extraordinary circumstances of Jesus’ conception and birth put Mary in a difficult position. She is pregnant before she is married, something carrying a huge social stigma in that society. And the explanation for all this isn’t one that is going to be easily accepted by those around her. What must it have been like for her to have to bear this burden?
Talking to the Lord
God is with us
- You are probably familiar with the story from Luke’s gospel of the archangel Gabriel being sent to Mary from God. In this account by Matthew, it is Joseph, not Mary, who receives the angel’s explanation of what is happening, and God’s part in it. How do you see Joseph reacting to what he has been told? What does that tell you about the kind of man that he is?
- Jesus here is given the name Emmanuel, which means, we are told, “God is with us”. A God who might otherwise seem remote and aloof has come to live right at the heart of his people. And that name, Emmanuel, is still one of the titles that Jesus bears. What does it mean to you to be able to say “God is with me, God is with us”, in the context of your own daily life?
- Each year, as we celebrate Christmas, we recall these events. Speak to God for a few moments now about what this feast will mean to you this year, and whatever hope it evokes in you. Listen for whatever response God may want to offer you.