Tuesday, December 24, 2019 Matthew 1:18-24
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. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 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. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All 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.’ 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
To Be Continued…
If you’re my age or older you might remember these three dreaded words, that appeared across your TV screen, sometimes during spring or fall sweeps, sometimes during a season finale. “To Be Continued…” I hated those words when I was a child. They meant that I had to wait at best a whole week at worst, the whole summer until I got to find out what was going to happen in a television show that I was watching. Of course, the “To Be Continued…” episodes always ended with a cliff hanger, a door about to open, an explosion, a character falls seemingly to his or her death, a letter opened or a conversation overheard that seems like it might end a relationship or begin one, something guaranteed to make you tune in next time, to find out what happens next. One show that I used to watch, knowing how much people hated (and perhaps loved) to be continued shows, even printed, under the dreaded words, “To Be Continued…” “Sorry!” They knew how frustrating it was for viewers, for a story not to finish in the allotted time. They didn’t do it very often, but they did it to get you to tune back in, next week, next season. And, of course, it worked. You just had to find out what happened.
Today’s scripture reading doesn’t feel like it’s “To Be Continued…” After all, we’ve finally gotten to the story we’ve all been waiting for. It’s December 24th and the baby is born and his earthly father, Joseph, has named him, Jesus, in obedience to the words of the angel. No cliffhanger here. This is the story we have been waiting for since at least the day after Thanksgiving. All of Advent, all of December, might have felt like it was “To Be Continued” as it drove us forward toward Christmas, but now, we’ve finally made it. Let the party begin!
There’s just one small problem. Getting ready for Christmas is not really what Advent is about. Advent is about waiting for Jesus to come again. And Christmas is the day that we celebrate in remembrance of Christ’s first coming, the coming that reminds us that his second coming is assured. God, who created us, God who came to us in the fully divine and fully human Jesus Christ, God who comes to us in Word and Sacrament, God who comes to us in the Holy Spirit, has promised us a return. Someday, Jesus will come again in a way that is not subtle, in a way that is not hidden, in a way that is unmistakable and undeniable, in a way that glorious and gracious, in a way that is holy and powerful.
So, flashing across the screen of this and every Christmas Eve, are the words, “To be continued…” We celebrate today that Jesus is with us in ways that we experience today and every day, sometimes in overwhelming ways and sometimes so quietly that we can miss it if we are too loud or too distracted. But something we can also celebrate today is that there is more to come. In some ways, this is the beginning of the story, and not the end. The story of Jesus’ presence with us and in the world continues to a glorious new beginning, when sin and pain and suffering are no more, and when all of creation rejoices in the presence of God, for all eternity.
It’s Christmas Eve, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Let us pray: Gracious God, we thank you for this night of joy, for this holy night. Bless us in our Christmas celebrations, whether they are big and loud and splashy or quiet and peaceful or marked with grief. Help us to know that you are with us now and help us to rejoice in your promise to come again. In the name of the one who was, and who is, and who is to come, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Submitted by: Pastor Amanda Warner