Daily Devotion Thursday, 14 December 2023

Thursday, 14 December 2023
Matthew 1:18-23

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 fulfil 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.’


In yesterday’s devotion we explored the ways in which God works with his creatures through the Spirit’s aligning and the Son’s redeeming. We claimed that this working-with meant that our reflection and judgments ought to express solidarity with others. Today we will concentrate on a unique act of solidarity—the Incarnation—and ask what this means for our judgments.  Advent and Christmas are the seasons in which we celebrate that most wonderful and humbling of all God’s acts: his becoming Emmanuel in the infant Jesus. We sing about Christ as God-with-us in many carols. 

One theologian who has made much of the little word “with” is Samuel Wells (in A Nazareth Manifesto: Being with God). He claims it is the most important preposition in the Bible. Before God does anything for us, he chooses to dwell with us. This is good news because in this act of being with us, God addresses our greatest problem: isolation. Wells argues that the gospel is essentially reconciliation. Restored relationship is the epicentre of God’s mission. We see this in God’s covenant relationship with Israel, in the incarnation, in the Spirit’s abiding presence, and in Christ’s communion with the Church. 

When we are isolated or lack companionship, we may be more prone to be judgmental about others. If we don’t feel a sense of connection with others in friendship and community, our judgments may lack empathy. In the Reformed tradition, we often identify Church first as a congregation. Week after week we turn up to be with God and with one another. I’ve observed that over time regular congregating has a marked effect on one’s judgements. Having to rub along with others, especially those who are very different from us, often has the effect of moderating and tempering one’s judgements. We don’t always agree with our fellow member, but if we know them well, we can understand why they have come to their view. This helps us to be charitable in our judgments.


Love caused your incarnation,
love brought you down to me;
your thirst for my salvation
procured my liberty:
O love beyond all telling,
that led you to embrace
in love all love excelling
our lost and fallen race.

(verse 2 of the hymn ‘O Lord, how shall I meet you’ by Paul Gerhardt, Rejoice and Sing, 140)


Today’s writer

The Rev’d Dr Julian Templeton, Training and Development Officer, Thames North Synod


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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