It looks simply lovely; a mom, a dad and wee little baby. But the back-story is so much more remarkable. A pregnancy out of wedlock, a husband who ignored the law and stood by his betrothed despite that, a journey under duress, a family tree riddled with everything from derelict leaders to a notable adulterer and noble sex workers. Our beautifully adorned mangers tell nothing of this. They only speak of serenity, harmony and peace. Our own families, however, are the ones that hold wounds, misfits, secrets and shame. But this is the Good News! God’s big love washes over it all and incarnates in the form of new beginnings. It dances in delight and offers hope that heals, redeems and softens. Judgment, self-ridicule, pain and separation can be wiped away. When this happens, in that moment, we—you and yours—become the holy crèche.
Beginning of the meeting
Read the reflection above. What images and impressions come to mind as you read or hear the text?
Matthew 1:18-25 New Revised Standard Version
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Reflect on these questions for a few moments in silence, then turn to another person and discuss.
- According to the Jewish law of the day, Joseph should have dissolved his engagement once he found out Mary was pregnant with a child that was not his. Following the law and being faithful to God are not always compatible. Can you think of situations where this might be true?
- How is your family like Jesus’ human family, warts and all? Can you recall a time when your family experienced God’s incarnated, healing love?
- Take a moment and gaze prayerfully at a manger scene. Let the peace, love and joy, expressed through the characters, speak to your heart.
After a few minutes bring the small group discussion to a close and invite people to talk about their insights and reflections in the larger group.
May the blessing of joy abide within you;
May the blessing of peace rest upon you;
May the blessing of love flow out through you;
May all the blessings of the Lord be yours at Christmas and in the new year.”
— Author Unknown