“What did you say was the Baby’s name?” – Dr. Clair Budd

December 26, 2016

“…and they shall name him Emmanuel…” – Matthew 1:18-25 (v. 23, NRSV)

Hundreds of years ago, during the Western missionary era in China, the Emperor was told that these “foreign devils” were converting the people to their faith. The Emperor asked whom they proclaimed, and when told of the Man from Nazareth who was born from the Virgin, who suffered and died on the Cross, the Emperor is said to have remarked: “Leave them alone, who in his right mind would ever believe such a crazy story?”

Joseph must have had similar thoughts after the angel’s visit, in which he was informed that his fiancée was pregnant “from the Holy Spirit.” He had been considering what to do with Mary, and the text tells us that he was a “righteous man” and did not want to make a public scene.  In spite of his misgivings, Joseph submitted to the instructions of the angel, and all the world has been blessed by the “God with us” baby that was born. 

Bette Midler had it wrong in her song: God is not watching us “from a distance”!  Because of the coming of the baby so many years ago, facilitated by Mary’s and Joseph’s obedience, God has come near.  He was near to the people of that time in the person of Jesus, who walked with the disciples, taught the crowds, and healed the sick. 

And in this post-Advent season, we recognize that this same God also has come and is “with us,” even in – perhaps, particularly in -- the messy and troubled areas of our lives.  And this makes all the difference!

“Emmanuel, you have come as the prophets and angels foretold.  We seek your presence to calm our fears that you are too far away.  We seek your presence to deliver us from doubts that we can know you and your touch that heals and strengthens.  We seek your presence to fill us with hope and joy in this day and every day.  Amen.” 

Dr. Clair Budd, Professor of Christian Studies & Philosophy

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