High River United Church of High River, Alberta
        

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God is With Us During This Difficult Christmas

Jesus was born about 4 BCE in Palestine. He was known also as Emmanuel, “God-with-us” and he came into a country that was under Roman occupation. There were no individual rights and freedoms. The taxes and tributes demanded, at the whim of Caesar, were crushing. Most everyone lived in poverty, working hard from dawn to dusk to feed their families and survive. The leaders of the country had mostly decided to work as puppets of the Romans (though they didn’t have much choice.)

 

At the time of Jesus’ birth, it is reported that a new census and taxation had been called. People were forced to travel long distances, no matter their personal circumstances, to report in for this census. You didn’t say, “No,” to the Roman soldiers. Those who protested too much ended up on crosses that were erected along public roads to remind people that you didn’t say, “No,” to Rome.  

 

Joseph and Mary, nine months pregnant, were forced into a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a distance of 90 miles or 145 km. They travelled on foot which would have taken them 5-7 days. There is no donkey mentioned in scripture and a poor couple would not have had a donkey. Later story-tellers added the donkey feeling pity for Mary, though I can’t imagine riding a donkey while nine months pregnant and going into labour would have been very pleasant. There was no way to phone ahead to book a room or to go online and reserve a space so when they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room in the inn. With Mary already well into her labour, they finally found a stable, a barn, in which to shelter. Perhaps they found a midwife, perhaps not. There was no sterile environment for the birth to prevent infection and no PPE. It was the smell of manure, the warmth of cattle and sheep and a manger full of hay that welcomed this birth

 

“God-with-us” didn’t arrive into a pristine, privileged situation, with a family had every advantage and for whom life was easy. Jesus came into a messy, challenging, chaotic and nasty time. And his mission was not to overthrow Rome and establish a new regime under a new ruler. His mission was to bring love right into the middle of the messiness and tragedy of human life and with that love to declare, “God is with you; you are not alone.” And he called people, like you and me, to join in that mission to be God’s compassionate presence in this world, providing care for neighbours, strangers and even those we might name as enemies.

 

This will be a difficult Christmas for us, a lonely one, a challenging one, but this is why Jesus came – to declare that God’s love is with us in the most difficult and tragic circumstances of life. When we choose to embrace the Way of Jesus, we commit ourselves to being God’s love for others in the most difficult and challenging circumstances of life.  

 

We are imaginative, creative people, and so we will celebrate Christmas 2020, getting right to the heart of what Christmas is all about, even as we feel our sadness because of the people and gatherings we are missing.  We will welcome the birth of Emmanuel and we will be “God-with-us” for others, even when we can’t physically be together. This is how we answer Christ’s call. This is how we celebrate Christ’s birth in the year 2020.

 

May you know God's peace and love enfolding you this Christmas,
Rev. Susan & Rev. David

www.highriverunitedchurch.org

 

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123 MacLeod Trail S.W. High River, Alberta.

(403) 652-3168

office@highriverunitedchurch.org

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