‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’
(Matthew 1:23 NLT)
The news over the last few days has left many deeply disappointed. Plans to spend a wee bit of time with loved ones this Christmas have had to be re-visited as we face another wave of the Coronavirus. Many are weary of the way this virus has disrupted our lives so significantly this year. We don’t always cope well when our expectations crumble and dreams are laid aside. Even before we found ourselves caught up in a global pandemic, this experience of disappointment was a normal part of life.
Two of the main men in the story of Jesus’ birth, as recorded in Luke and Matthew’s gospels, clearly have expectations and disappointments. Zechariah’s expectation that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a baby seems to have waned as the years passed and there was no pregnancy. His priestly expectation that God would send a Saviour for his people had perhaps weakened a little too. God had been silent for around 400 years. (Luke 1:8-25)
Joseph is anticipating his marriage to Mary and no doubt has great expectations of starting a family with her and settling down to happy domesticity in Nazareth. Then comes the shock of Mary’s pregnancy and his dream is shattered. How could she betray him like this? He could seek vengeance, but he loves her and decides to do the honourable thing and divorce her quietly. (Matt 1: 18-25)
One of the aspects of the Bible I really appreciate is that it does not brush over any of our human emotions, reactions and frailties. People are presented as real, not idolised and made to look good. So, when God chooses to send his Son Jesus into the world, to be born as a baby in a particular time and place, the people caught up in this momentous event are ordinary folk, with the usual mix of expectations and disappointments we experience.
This is how God expresses his love for us, he comes to be with us, right in the midst of all our experiences. Zechariah and Joseph’s worlds were turned upside down as they were caught up in God’s plan of salvation, in the unique event of the incarnation. But we too are caught up in God’s plan of salvation today. Are we ready for our expectations and disappointments to be turned around as we see how God is working in us and through us to bring the blessing of Jesus to those around us?
May the celebration of Christmas this year reassure us all that God is at work and he is with us. Let us lean into him ever more deeply at the end of this challenging year.
This Christmas we wish you the love, joy, peace and hope that Jesus brings.