Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Advent and stress

Scripture is written to the point in its largely story form, surely partly so we can fill in the gaps in seeing how our various stories fit into the one great Story of God (as Eugene Peterson points out). When we read of Mary and Joseph we read of a narrative with gaps in which there surely was some times of more than ordinary stress for the two.

There is the time after Mary received word from the angel of the miraculous conception and special baby she was to carry. How would this work out? Would Joseph believe her? There is Joseph, struggling through this until God assures him in a dream through an angel that Mary is indeed telling him the truth, amazing as that truth is. Then there is the aftermath, in which Joseph and Mary together surely had to live among whisperers and people who knew that she was pregnant, though they had yet to come together to live fully as husband and wife. A time of stress.

Then Jesus is born. Stress surrounds this of course, but more than from the normal process of birth. There is the king Herod from whom they end up having to flee and then live in a foreign land: Egypt. And then upon their return Joseph is uneasy and is directed by the angel to leave Judea and they go back to Nazareth.

Stress. A normal part of human life and at times especially acute. It's good that we have the story laid out as we do. We can see God's hand in it all throughout, though in the actual living out of it Mary and Joseph could not always see that, and surely they had questions along the way. But in our reading of it we see it turns out for good, though not in the way we would come up with ourselves. Simeon made it clear to Mary that her path would not be an easy one since a sword would pierce her soul too, with reference to her son and his mission from God.

Jesus himself shared in this stress. We can see it sometimes in his interaction with people during his time of ministry, and acutely so in Gethsemane. He knows firsthand and with that empathy is God-with-us, Emmanuel, to help us in the times of stress we face.

Let's thank and praise God who has come to live in the person of his Son, in this real world and experience. Completely human just as we are, yet also "God-with-us", present to help us through to the glorious end.


Ted M. Gossard said...

I would like to add to this that the heartr of this help is Jesus with us by the Spirit and in accordance with Hebrews 2 and 4.

But also included is ways in which God may work even as he did with Mary and Joseph. God's will is accomplished even though we may not see it in terms of the extraordinary. Yet God still does move in answer to prayer and lead us as we endeavor to walk in faith no matter what we're facing.

L.L. Barkat said...

Often, our stress is self-visited. I do see that in these biblical cases, it was a holy stress, accepted for the vision and purpose of God. Makes me think.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good thought. I've had much more of the former I'm afraid, in my life, than the latter. Though certainly all in Jesus will experience something of holy stress.

The vision and purpose of God should end up hitting all our doings so that what could be our undoing can end up being a growing point along the way. I know I need that kind of hope and faith and assurance.

Anonymous said...

yes, i agree that being able to see the stories of people in the word can help us to have a better perspective in our own story.

interesting to think upon the story behind the story of what they must have gone throuth.

more angle to the God relationship to be able to realate to this.

i was thinking today that a lot of interest and absorbtion of things for me involve being able to relate instead of just do something like listen to a recording of someone talking or a documentary kind of thing. i think that humans need relationship with others and with God...and the stories in the bible are another way for God and humans to relate.

i am starting to blab...time to publish.

Martin Stickland said...

Are you warm enough Ted, it's freezing here in poor little old England.

have a sooooopeer day!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, relationships are at the heart of why we're here and why God became flesh in Jesus. We all need them. Seems like a struggle oftentimes in this world; sometimes it seems rather dark here, and foreboding. I guess Mary and Joseph would identify with that thought in some way, as well.

Ted M. Gossard said...

My mother sent us a wonderful Amish built heater. Looks like a mini-fire place. Supposed to take electrical power equivalent to a coffee maker. So we're trying to save money and yet keep warm. So far, so good. But it's plenty cold enough for me. Though I do like some cold season which makes me appreciate Spring all the more. I'd like to have mostly Spring and Autumn with some Winter and Summer sprinkled in between. But I shouldn't complain, and besides, that won't do any good!