Sunday 22nd December 2013
Isaiah 7:10-16 and Matthew 1:18-end
Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, televised in the 70s and 80s were more commonly seen to be Tales of the Entirely Expected as the plot unravelled leading you to see what was going to happen.
In many ways Matthew’s account of the of the coming of the Messiah is a tale of the unexpected. With recent statistics showing that only 12% of adults know the nativity story and 51% of adults saying that Christ is irrelevant to their celebration of Christmas - this story needs to be retold again and again so that the unexpected way of God coming into our world can be heard afresh and felt with new impact.
God moves in the unexpected - a young girl before marriage becoming pregnant, perplexity in her husband to be at what has happened, which leads him to see what God is actually doing through the angel that visits. Not looked for, not wanted but unexpected.
In what ways are we open to the unexpected in life? There is of course the unexpected illness that is diagnosed. The unexpected and unlooked for life events. These things interrupt our own plans and our own dreams. We may well struggle with the sense of loss that may come with those unexpected moments. Mary and Joseph’s plans for life have been well and truly interrupted - nice little home somewhere, nice family to raise. All this changes in those few precious weeks. Best laid plans and all....
But there is also unexpected treasure to be discovered in those unexpected and unlooked for moments. Often when we feel we are being overwhelmed by life itself, God can become a more overwhelming aspect of our lives. The treasure within Mary, who no doubt is overwhelmed at this point in her life, is one which will continue shape to shape her life and the lives of all those who follow him. Mary giving birth to hope. Mary bearing God - whose journey to the tomb begins in the womb.
So a powerful lesson of living life with God can be seen in today's Gospel passage. Not that all unexpected events are from God. But that living with God as the chief overwhelming thing in our lives will help us put other overwhelming things into perspective. It may even help us discover the treasure that can be found.
We too can be people that can bring the unexpected into people’s lives. A generous gift to someone facing financial need at this time of year. A gift of food. Some time to hear of someones concerns. We can be the people that help others hear of the coming of Christ among us making Christmas that little bit more unexpected for them.
John is the Vicar of St Paul’s, Tupsley and St Andrews, Hampton Bishop in Hereford Diocese. He’s also currently doing Doctoral Studies at Kings College London.