Cathy Goretsky’s Reflection for Christmas Day 2012
REFLECTION FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS DAY 2012
By Cathy Goretsky
There hasn’t been much time to reflect on the fourth Sunday of Advent this year as Christmas Day follows so quickly behind, but the Advent candles were all blazing brightly yesterday and we have a small window of opportunity to take care of the inner preparation for receiving the Baby Jesus into our hearts once more on Christmas Day.
We are so close now. The gifts are wrapped, the cookies baked, the cards sent out, and plans made for the big day. I was thinking of those last few hours when Mary and Joseph went from inn to inn searching for a place to spend the night. How uncomfortable it certainly was for Mary who was about to give birth. In those last few hours of going from door to door, she likely was already beginning to experience labor pains. The Christmas Story in the Gospels doesn’t give us the small details, but can’t you just imagine her being frightened and wishing so that she was near her mother? I’m sure that if we try to put ourselves in her place in those last few hours before settling into the stable to spend the night, we will see her cheeks wet with tears. And, Joseph, strong and capable, determined to find a place for his wife to spend the night, continued to search for a place for them to get some rest. Finally, in the city crowded and bustling, one innkeeper’s heart was moved to offer them the only shelter that he could think of, that place where the animals were kept.
Mary and Joseph couldn’t have brought too many supplies with them so they likely fashioned mats of straw for sleeping. There wasn’t to be any sleep that night, however. It was time for the baby to be born. Imagine delivering a baby in such conditions! And imagine being the husband, trying desperately to make his wife comfortable and help her through the pain in such a place with only the animals around. No doctors. No midwives. Nothing to ease the pain. No running water. No one to help. Joseph, who had no doubt imagined a happy life with little Mary, the girl he was to marry, first learns that she is pregnant and because he is a loving man, decided to end the relationship quietly until he is visited in a dream by an angel who tells him an unbelievable story! He takes the angel’s message to heart and devotes himself to caring for Mary and now he faces the difficult task of helping her to deliver the baby. He would have unpacked the necessary things that Mary’s mother had packed for her – the material needed to clean the newborn child and then the cloth to wrap him in while at the same time trying to care for Mary in her discomfort, as she was completely dependent upon him now. How she must have longed for her mother to be there to help! But, no, it was Joseph, steady and dependable, who was there through it all. This was not the place for a man. Men didn’t help to deliver babies! That was a job for the midwife and the female relatives of the mother. The men would wait for the news, talking and laughing with the father-to-be, keeping him occupied with stories as they waited. No, Joseph was right there. There is no Gospel story about how Joseph was the very first human being to hold the Holy Child. We have to “fill in the details” of the event ourselves.
When we reflect on the night that God Himself entered our world in a very human way, it’s good to think about the qualities that Joseph had. He and Mary were raised in a culture that did not put a high value on women. Things like helping with the birth of a baby were “women’s work”, so the qualities we see in Joseph tell us what a remarkable man he was. Just as God chose little Mary for the wondrous task of being the mother of His son, he also chose Joseph, the hard-working dependable carpenter, to be the one who would first hold His son in his arms; the one who would protect his wife and the child from harm – working to support them and being there to teach the Child Jesus about life.
So, as we welcome the Baby Jesus into our hearts this Christmas Day, take time for a little quiet reflection on what the qualities are that God has given each of us so that we can show the love of Jesus to the people around us. Like Joseph, we are called to be obedient to what God asks of us. Like Joseph, we must have a quiet determination. We must be dependable. We must not be afraid. Think about how little the Gospel writers tell us of Joseph’s words and actions other than his part in protecting and caring for his family. Perhaps, for us, that is the most important thing that God will ever ask of us.
Take a few minutes and study the Nativity scene. So simple. So focused on the Babe in the Manger. This is the message that God wants us to take away from the celebration – we must focus on the Child Jesus and what He asks of us.
In the short few hours before we once again welcome Jesus into our hearts, into our lives, we have time only to think of how much He loves us. Once we truly understand that, we know what the celebration is all about. Only then will we know, like Joseph, what it is that He asks each of us.