Matthew 1:18-25 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.
Reflection Mary considered drinking an extract of the herb silphium but after praying about it, she had a change of heart. Joseph planned to send Mary away to give birth to the illegitimate child in obscurity but after a dream in which he experienced the presence of God with him, he had a change of heart. Although we have no evidence for the historicity of the first statement, it is not beyond the realm of possibility. The question is, what does it take to have a change of heart?
What does it take to change our opinion? What does it take to change a decision that we no longer think is right or true? What does it take to change our behavior and consequently the course of history?
Since the Twelve Step program was published in 1939 by Alcoholics Anonymous countless people have made significant lifestyle changes in all areas of their lives. I believe one of the keys to their success is the second step; recognizing a “Higher Power” that Christians call God is present and actively giving us strength and the capacity to accept and grow through the challenges of life.
And the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” (Luke 1. 28-31)
In little more than a week, in the midst of our darkest season, we will be welcoming the birth of the Christ child, the return of new light and life and hope in our lives. Are we ready to examine and change our opinions or feelings on matters that impede or inhibit the message of dignity and hope for all people? Are we prepared to reverse decisions we have made that in the new light of God present with us fall short of expressing compassion, inclusion, freedom and justice for refugees and immigrants, people with disabilities or varied gender preferences, for foreigners and strangers and all of creation? Are we willing to have a change of heart and amend our lives to allow the Presence of God in us and of us and through us to be Good News for all people on earth?
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