I am listening
Don’t tell me
“Be not afraid”
Do you know my story
Both pain and glory

Do you know what
Year it is, 2020
Sickness, loss, death
Need I say there has
Been plenty

Do not fear
As our flight
Passes through turbulence
We are in this together
By choice and by chance

Separation, isolation
Questions no one answers
Tears no one sees
So don’t distress me
In this moment as
Though I am invisible

I am hungry
Don’t tell me
“Be not afraid”
Give me fresh bread
Friendship and hope

I am lonely
Not for more news
Missing their touch
How long God
It feels like too much

But today I am
Here unmasked from
My fear
So you have my
Attention, be clear

So tell me a story
That I may hold on
Look up, be glad
Stay woke with hope
And remember this year
I am alive for Christmas

The People’s New Testament Commentary says, “God’s initiative and surprising grace chooses a young unmarried woman from an obscure village to be the mother of the son of God. In Matthew’s gospel, Joseph is highlighted in the birth story. In Luke’s profession, Mary and Elizabeth have leading roles in the story.”

Dear Beloved,I don’t want you to miss the central character of the story of the Advent season. The Christmas gift for the people, as the Gospel writer John proclaims, “The word become flesh, the baby who changes everything!”

Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)
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. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 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. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Luke 2:1-7 (CEB)
In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guest room.

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you, wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

Luke’s recount of the nativity story is described with the backdrop of ancient Roman history. Emperor Augustus, adopted heir of Julius (Caesar) born 69 BCE was given the title “Augustus,” which means “reverend” by the Roman senate 27 BCE.

Joseph went with Mary to be registered on tax a list. They went to David’s City, called Bethlehem, in Judea because Joseph was a descendent of David. Mary’s time for birth came while in Bethlehem; he was laid in a manger because there was no place in the Inn. Jesus’ birth is good news for all people, Samaritans and Romans.

Acts 2:5-11 (CEB)
There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!”

Isaiah 7:14 (CEB)
Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Emmanuel!

2020 has been a year full of fears, tears, and for most of the last eight months, communal disruption. I could not go to funerals, hold and hug with freedom. I have been wearing a mask that covers my smile and dimples.

I have been fatigued and distraught by racial discord, injustice and political pundits. I have been inspired by acts of kindness and faithfulness of those who daily cared for sick and troubled. I marvel at parents pouring love into their children and families, and I grieve for children who need to know they are loved and blessed.

The birth of a child is a miracle with meaning, which is why we champion the belief that “Children Matter Most.”

God’s promise to Abraham that your descendants will be as numerous as stars and through your offspring, all nations of the earth will be blessed. This is a reminder that babies born from generation to generation are transmitters of hope, signs of wonder and love.

God looked at the human family and decided Abraham and Sarah were not enough. Moses was not enough. Solomon, Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, and the prophets were not enough.

The promised gift of life, of hope, of awesome wonder comes in Good News in a manager.

Jesus comes and says to the rich I am poor.

To the poor, I am rich.

To the burdened, I am rest.

To the weak, I am strength.

To the fearful, I am joy.

O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell.
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Christmas prayer #231
Eternal God,
by the birth of Jesus Christ you gave yourself to the world.
Grant that, being born in our hearts,
he may save us from all our sins,
and restore within us the image and likeness of our Creator,
to whom be everlasting praise and glory,
world without end.

Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Resident Bishop
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church