August 2020 Connection


“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife.” Matthew 1:18-24 (CEB)

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, ‘Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!’ She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.’…Then Mary said, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:26-33, 38 (CEB)

You can rest assured that you didn’t miss anything, and that the calendar did not just jump from summer to winter with an unannounced celebration of Christmas. It’s just that these passages of scripture have been on your pastor’s mind lately. At the time of writing this (July 20th), there is just one month remaining until Stephanie and I will wake up on the expected arrival date of our soon-to-be baby daughter (but who’s counting, right?). In the scriptures noted above, Joseph, in the blink of an eye, became an earthly father to Jesus, the incarnation of God. Mary’s life was turned upside down as she experienced the miraculous pregnancy and the labor pains of childbirth, delivering a wiggly little boy known only as Emmanuel, “God with us.” Nothing will put pressure on you as a parent like parenting the Son of God, right?!
Now, before you think I’m comparing myself as a parent, to the parenthood of Joseph or Mary, it’s extremely important for me to say that while my children are wonderful – and believe me, I have a unmistakable parental bias which allows me to believe that they are extraordinarily remarkable children – they are not the incarnation of God on earth. Nor am I. Nor are you.
But, we are all children of God, created in the image of God, and vivified by the very breath of God! We are all beautifully and wonderfully made by the same God that proclaimed in the beginning that “it was good.” We are formed like clay in the hands of the masterful Potter. We are knit together in the womb, and called into a life of grace and abundant joy by the source of life, God’s-self.
You. Yes, you! You were created as a child of God, and no matter what people, the world, or even the church says (yes, the church has a history of getting it wrong), you remain a beloved child of God. If you didn’t know that before, please read this paragraph over and over again until it is engraved upon your heart and mind.
So, what does any of that wonderful reminder have to do with Mary and Joseph? For some, we are called to be parents to children, however those children become part of our myriad families. For others, we are called to be, in many ways like parents for children. But, parents or not, for each one of us who call ourselves Christians, we are called to nurture, love, comfort, challenge, and embrace all those in our midst, as if they are family (because they are). I know that this may sound so very sweet and idealistic – like something from a TV drama, this is, in fact, a commitment we make to one another in the Christian church. Read these words, likely familiar, from the United Methodist baptismal liturgy:
Question to the Congregation: “Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons now before you in your care?”
Congregation’s Response: “With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God, and be found faithful in their service to others. We will pray for them that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.”
As people of faith and as disciples of Christ, we are called, like Joseph and Mary, and like all those who have faithfully served God since, to care for, nurture, and love those who God has placed among us. Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is with love for my great big church family, and with a passion for those whom this church has yet to meet, that I share in this responsibility with you.
Pastor Brian
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