Friday, December 07, 2007

The Unanticipated Messiah, part 1

When we get to advent, it is a time of great anticipation for the Church. Often, we hear that the whole world is looking forward with anticipation for the arrival of Christ, the redeemer, the God-Man. Sometimes, in our excitement, we assume it was the same 2,007 years ago...

If we cast our imaginations back to the first Christmas, the idea that all of creation is waiting with bated breath for the coming of the Messiah seems only natural. But I want to suggest that this could not be further from the truth.

Mary and Joseph, first of all, were on the long journey from Nazareth, in Galilee to Bethlehem, in Judea (a journey of some 70 miles as the crow flies). Travelling in the last stages of pregnancy, by donkey, would have been horrible: but doing the journey with a baby would have probably cost the child its life, and maybe Mary hers as well. They needed to reach their destination before Mary could safely give birth, and before they would have had the necessary provissions for the baby. Giving birth on the road was unthinkable. Far from looking forward with anticipation to his birth, Mary and Joseph were almost certainly dreading it happening early.

The friends and family of Mary and Joseph would have been busy fussing about, getting to their own places of birth for the census. There would not have been time for a baby shower, no gifts or old toys and clothes to inherit from family members and close friends. This was the most inconvenient time for their friends to have a baby.

When the young couple finally arrived in Bethlehem, all the inns were full up. They had nowhere to go except a cave, used for housing animals. 'I'm sorry that you're pregnant, I really am, but there's not a lot I can do...' you can hear the poor, over-burdened receptionist saying it now.

Even the Magi, contrary to popular wisdom, are not due to arrive on the scene for a couple of years yet. Herod killed all the toddlers because Jesus would have been 2 or 3 by the time the Magi got there.

And so it came to pass, in those days, that in the cave used to shelter and feed the animals, the Son of God entered into this earth, incarnate as a frail, human baby. His two earthly parents were exhausted, the inn was full, and this was no occasion for a great celebration. The whole fabric of creation did not tremble before the God-Man; the world kept turning, and this insignificant event passed by without anyone even turning their head...

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