Friday, December 21, 2012


I woke up thinking about arrivals this morning which is entirely appropriate, given the season. Many people travel this season- by plane, by car, by bus- so, there are a lot of arrivals in peoples' life right now. Many of us are planning arrivals or waiting for arrivals or have already arrived at our Christmas destinations. It is the right time of year for these reunions and for time spent with family and friends.

In the Christian calendar, it is, also, Advent which recalls the long wait for possibly the most significant arrival in history- the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. We spend this season listening to the prophets and John the Baptist telling us of the imminent arrival of our Saviour. We wait with Mary, as she expects her child, promised with such awe and mystery. Indeed, we arrive with her and Joseph in Bethlehem. We go with her into the manger as she begins to feel the labour pains of the coming salvation of the world. That is a lot of waiting. That is one very important arrival.

Arrivals come in all sorts and moods. Many arrivals are joyful; the reunion of friends and family who haven't seen each other for too long. Some arrivals add the joy of arriving after the fatigue of an arduous and difficult journey. Some arrivals retain their joy in seeing friends and family, but may be tinged with sadness or grief because of illness or absence of some of those we love. Some arrivals are difficult as one is reminded by strained relationships or loss which makes joy difficult this time of year. . Yet, they all share the journey and the anticipation inherent in travel. When we arrive, we pause for a moment in our travels and realize that we are where we intended to be.

For Mary and Joseph, however, the arrival of Jesus was a difficult one. They, too, did their stint of holiday travel; travelling to Bethlehem at the behest of the Roman authorities. Several days on a donkey while heavily pregnant is hardly a recipe for a peaceful and relaxing trip. Then, there was the hassle over accommodations which ending in the couple bedding down in the manger with the animals instead of in a private room in the inn. Then, as soon as they arrived, it became obvious is was Mary's time and Joseph had to stumble out into the night again to find a midwife to help his wife hundreds of miles from home. I'm sure as he stumbled through the darkness, Joseph was wondering whether things could get worse and whether the arrival of his son would be a safe one.

Still, despite the problems, this arrival was joyful, the most joyful known to humanity. All Creation, tradition tells us, held its breath and time paused for a moment the instant Jesus was born; a valuable tip-off for Joseph that he'd better give up his search for a midwife and get back to his wife and new son. Mary welcomed the child whose extraordinary birth she had agreed to months earlier and had awaited for so long with eager anticipation. . Angel choirs descended upon astonished shepherds in the hills near Bethlehem, sing 'Glory to God' for the arrival of Mary's child. The shepherds joyfully sought out this wonderful child as did kings from the East, bringing gifts to celebrate this arrival. Even the animals back at the manger, valued members of God's Creation, were welcoming the child and hoped that this arrival meant the beginning of the end of the rift between humanity and the world God made. . Did they, as mediaeval legend encourages to believe,  greet Jesus, enjoying the temporary power of human speech or did they assure Him of their love in their own tongues. Jesus' arrival began with difficulty and worries, but ends in a joyous celebration, not only of the happy parents, but of all people and creatures within reach of the news- angels and humans, poor and rich, animals and, I'm sure, the very earth itself.

Advent, the time we remember the arrival of Jesus to this earth, is almost at an end and we ready ourselves for Christmas Day. Another arrival is waiting in the future, but, for now, we celebrate how God arrived on earth as a helpless newborn and began to the process which will see the world and all in it redeemed and restored. May God grant you a blessed Christmas and peaceful holiday.


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