As I sit here on Christmas Eve, trying to carve out space to meditate on the Incarnation, a candle lit on my little desk, my husband is running a power saw on the roof cutting off the excess wood he used to finish our back patio. And I can’t help but think about the parallels in my life with the dynamic between Joseph and Mary.
Mary held within her, literally, the promise of God. And Joseph struggled to believe it. It took the revelation of an angel for him to believe. And I wonder if, as the years passed and Jesus grew, Joseph didn’t start to doubt the promise. Or at least lose the wonder of it amidst the everyday life of raising a child and trying to provide for the needs of his family.
While he worked with wood he lived with scandal, and he saw no great transformation in Israel or even in his and Mary’s own lives. There was no arrival at Shalom once Jesus was born. Surely Mary and Joseph still struggled with the pain that comes with learning to love someone. Mary must have had days of fatigue and longing Joseph failed to fulfill. Joseph must have had days of irritation and frustration with the struggle to provide for his stigmatized family. They probably got on each others nerves and Jesus still needed to be fed and changed and held.
These are all speculations of course. But Joseph and Mary were not super human. They were broken humans, just like my husband and me. Joseph blends into the background in the story of the incarnation. A man who struggled with unbelief, but was willing to accept and care for the woman and child who would bring to his daily life the reminder of what the angel told him, “…he will save his people from their sins.”
The story of Mary and Joseph feels familiar. I too am a woman with the promise of God in me. Christ is in me. And my soul sings with Mary, “…the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” The Holy Spirit is also filling me with new life that I cannot account for through human means. My husband has struggled to accept this in our 30 years together. Yet God has turned his heart time and time again towards caring for his family.
My second son was born eighteen years ago, two days after Christmas. Being pregnant at Christmas is another reason Joseph and Mary’s story resonates with me. The gift of a child. The gift of a man, who though he doesn’t understand, cares and provides and tries to make room for the scandal and accept it.
The fulfillment of the promise of the Child who will save his people from their sins plays out in my everyday life. And in a lifetime of treasuring promises in my heart, building a home, and most days, seeing nothing revolutionary. This is the Christmas story that lights the candle in my darkened soul. This is the mystery and the hope that carries me. Day after day.
Christ is born. Joy to the world. And to the world-weary men and women.