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.
Is God with Us?
If God is with us, what will it be like? God is with us. There will be peace. If God is with us, there will be security and protection. If God is with us, a lot of good things will happen. That is our common thinking and that is a nice theory, but that is not always true. Also, the scripture doesn’t say that. Jacob’s life wasn’t like that even though God was with him. How about Moses’ last 40 years? He wanted to live in green pasture peacefully with family, but because God was with him, he had to go to the wilderness, and for 40 years he suffered much. Jesus and the disciples would have lived a very normal, happy life, but because God was with them, they left their fishing net, home, security, protection, and most of them, became martyrs at the end. It is the same with St.Paul. Their lives that are full of crisis, danger, and hardship because God was with them. Even though God is with us, we experience crisis, trouble, vulnerability, and danger.
Well, whenever people experience hardships in life, the first question they raise is whether God is with me. When things become difficult, the question people ask is, “is God there? Is, God with me?” When bad things happen to them, they sometimes even conclude that God doesn’t exist, or at least he was not with me. It is hard to accept that God leads us into crisis, into trouble, and into danger. Mary’s pregnancy; That was the visible sign of God being with her. Son of God was in her body. “Emmanuel”. That was the visible sign of God being with Mary. However, this presence of God would lead Mary and Joseph into great trouble, crisis, and even danger. If God wasn’t with them, their lives might have been better off. Joseph would have married Mary and lived happily ever after and at least they could live a normal life like everybody else. A virgin getting pregnant. It was not just a scandal. Maybe in these days, maybe its just scandal, but in that time it was not just a scandal. It was a crime punishable by death, capital punishment.
We must realize how hard it is to impregnate God’s presence. Impregnating God’s presence is not an easy thing. You don’t just close your eyes and “Hmmmm”. God’s presence does not come to you. Being pregnant with God’s presence is a very difficult and scary thing. Sometimes even God threw Joseph into the situation where there was no way out. Joseph thought, but he had no way out so all he could do was “Okay, I’m going to just break off this relationship.” That’s all he could think about it. There was no way out. God brought Joseph and Mary into great fear. “Emmanuel”, God is with us because of “Emmanuel”. Joseph and Mary fell into a deep dilemma. “Emmanuel” was the scandal. “Emmanuel” was the problem. You know we have certain thoughts about God, and according to our thoughts, we have certain expectations about God and we expect God to behave in the way we imagine, that’s what we do with God. We want God to serve us rather than us serving God. God, I want you to behave this way because this is my idea about you, so if you don’t behave in the way that I can imagine that maybe you are not God. So we continuously create idols rather than God. The idols that I can handle, the idols that I like, the idols that I’m comfortable with, to God is not limited to all our limited imagination.
You want to hear what Isaiah said. This is what Isaiah said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the Lord, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God leads us beyond our imagination and so whenever God is with you, God always surprises you. But the funny thing is, whatever idea that we have about God, is still the same, some people still have ideas of elementary lessons that they learn about God and they continue until they die. God doesn’t change. But God continuously opens you up so that your understanding of God becomes deeper. But we would choose idols rather than God because idols don’t change, doesn’t challenge us. It is a pseudo-god, an ideal god. But when real God is present with us, we are challenged, we are shocked, we are surprised every time. Sometimes don’t you wonder, oh my goodness how can you work in that way? I could never imagine the way you worked in my life. Sometimes I get awed by the way God worked through my life. God leads us beyond our imagination. We don’t want to go where God wants to take us many times because it doesn’t guarantee security and safety, so we don’t want to go there. What is most important to me is security and safety, and if God cannot provide that, that is not God. That’s the most important thing. That is my god, security, and safety. That’s my god. Nothing and nobody else can take this away from me.
God is with Us
Mary would have never have chosen to take the life in the way that happened to her. Mary could not even imagine how God could do that in my body. You want me to be pregnant with the son of God. That was beyond her imagination and she would’ve never have chosen that way willingly on her own. My friends, we never choose the hard way, we always choose the easy and comfortable way. Sometimes hard and difficult situations are just dropped before us, without my choice. It’s not that I’ve chosen that way, but it just comes. It just gets dropped in front of me on my doorstep. Sometimes because of “Emmanuel”, life becomes hard and difficult because of “Emmanuel”. There are Asian shame and crisis in our lives. Sometimes without “Emmanuel”, my life, my might’ve been better off. So when difficulties come because of “Emanuel”, don’t be too discouraged. Don’t lose hope. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t blame yourself and others. As Simon announced, that group of refugees came into Canada. 25,000 people will come, and Justin Trudeau even went out to greet them. I was very proud of my own prime minister of my country. He chose the hard way, not the safe way. When everybody talks about security and safety, he chose humanity. God always challenges us. What are you going to choose in your life? Let us wait and see how “Emmanuel” turns our crisis into a new birth and new life. Into new opportunity to experience what we never experienced before.
I’m not going to be a slave to security and safety. One life I live I don’t want to do that. I want to experience something wonderful, what life can offer to all of us? You’re still young. What are you afraid of? Fear. Fear should never be a guiding principle. We should never feel other people to choose something. When you choose something, choose it out of love, not out of fear, do not fear for God is with us. For the new life to be born. There will always be chaos and destruction. The old has to go for the new to come. Right now in this world, we experienced tremendous chaos and crisis and people live with fear. We choose not to live with fear. Let us pray that God may give birth to a new order in this world through this chaos and confusion, and that is something that we need to reflect on during this Christmas season. Jesus was born, but how? I hope that she just becomes born in your heart. When God is with you and Jesus is born in your heart, then you will see something that you didn’t see before. That’s the message of Christmas.