Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)
Verse 18Now 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. Verse 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. Verse 20But 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. Verse 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Verse 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Verse 23"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." Verse 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, Verse 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Even the holy family needed some time to prepare for Jesus, nine months at least. This wonderful news, God with us and God granting us salvation from our sins, needed time to breathe and space to set in.
That time and space to take in the story of Jesus’ birth always happened on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house, before the kids went to bed. We circled around my Papa in the living room as he took out his Bible, our faces as still as the curious onlookers of our family’s nativity set—cousins and cattle and aunts and uncles and shepherds, all facing the center of the manager and my Papa’s Bible sitting gently on his lap.
Before the stockings and gifts and turkey and dinner rolls and a floor decorated in wrapping paper, we all sat with unusual attention to hear the story of the night that Jesus was born. Though a familiar tale, it filled that room with an awe so big, it needed its own time to breathe.
My Papa closed his leather-bound Bible gently, everyone silent and wide-eyed, and we slowly rose to head to bed, still waiting and wondering at the unfolding story, a space of a full night’s rest yet needed for the promise of God’s arrival to set deep into our hearts.
Dear God, prepare our hearts and spirits for the arrival of the good news of the birth of your son, Jesus Christ. In your love and care for your creation and beloved children we pray, Amen.