As I ponder Christmas, I find myself wondering about what it would be like if it had all happened today. Put another way, how are you celebrating Mary’s crisis pregnancy? Are you, like Joseph, questioning love and doubting future plans?
Let’s unpack the above a little.
What does it mean to say Mary’s crisis pregnancy? Do you think that Mary, a young teenage girl, had this planned out all her life? That’s not to say that God didn’t have it planned? For Mary, it was a crisis. Why? Mary was betrothed to be married to Joseph. Betrothed is more than engagement, but not quite marriage. She was betrothed and pregnant and Joseph was NOT the baby daddy. Joseph was going to quietly divorce her. Mary, who was pregnant outside of marriage, was soon to be dumped by the man Mary was going to marry. Things were not looking good for “highly favored” Mary the one whom all generations will call “blessed among women.” Imagine the struggle Mary faced after accepting the word of the Angel of the Lord.
Imagine also the struggle that Joseph faced. All he knows is that his fiancé is pregnant by another, just days from their marriage. Joseph was a righteous man. He did right according to God and God’s Law. The right thing for Joseph to do, upon finding out that his fiancé was pregnant and knowing he was not the father was to quietly divorce her. He could, in fact, have publicly accused her of infidelity and had her stoned (read killed) for her adultery. He instead, mercifully, chooses to quietly dismiss her. She won’t be killed, but the wedding is canceled and people will talk. She will be shamed and abandoned in their small community.
Are there people like Mary and Joseph today? Are there young women today who are struggling with an unplanned pregnancy? Are there men (and women) like Joseph who give only judgement of pregnant women (or girls) in crisis?
If you could help, what would you do? Where would you take a young (teenage) and unmarried Mary in crisis facing abandonment by her Joseph? There are options. One option is the Fyndout Free Pregnancy Center, a place where pregnancy status is confirmed for free and support provided. FYND (For Your Next Decision) helps pregnant women (and dads) in crisis. They’re located at 1402 Wilbur Street, Fairbanks and are open Tuesday – Friday. Their number is (907) 455-8255 and their website is: https://fyndoutfree.com/
Here at St. Paul Church, we support the Fyndout Free Clinic to help young moms in crisis. We support as a church and we support individually. We do this, because we care and it’s the right thing to do. Perhaps we honor Mary and remember Christmas when we do so. Certainly we honor our Lord Jesus Christ in this midst it of all. Please pray for all facing the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy. It is always easier to judge, than to help. Take a moment and help. Merry Christmas to all the struggling Marys out there and to all.
The Rev. Stephen Reed
Pastor, St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall
Chaplain, Fairbanks PD
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's Faith Section on December 27, 2019
We are halfway through Advent. What is Advent? It is the 4 week season that began on Sunday December 1st and continues to Tuesday December 24. Advent is also the beginning of the Church year. What does all this mean for you? It means that Advent is a time to look back to ponder Mary (an unwed pregnant teenager), Joseph (most famous stepdad), & Jesus (long promised baby messiah) in a manger in Bethlehem. Advent is also a time to look forward to Jesus returning in the clouds. How does Advent affect you? We can go deeper than nativities, shopping, carols, and Christmas lights.
Advent continued this past Sunday with readings from Isaiah, Romans, and Matthew. In Isaiah we heard prophesy of a time when all creation is at peace; the wolf and the lamb, children and poisonous snakes, bears and cows, etc. We live in Alaska. We know bears and wolves, but happily not snakes. We know that bears and wolves are predators to be respected and feared. We know that peaceful co-existence of predator and prey (wolves and sheep, cows and bears) is counter intuitive. Isaiah is powerful to hear and contemplate.
In the reading from Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome, Paul encourages the church “…to live in harmony with one another…” Harmony and peaceful co-existence within a church is not always easy. God is again at work in a mighty, powerful, and meaningful way.
In the Gospel lesson from Matthew, we hear of John the Baptist. He is a unique character in the Gospel. He is a rugged individualist who speaks against religious leaders and gathers followers in the wilderness. He survives off the land and baptizes in the river while proclaiming one who is greater. I can imagine him doing well in Alaska.
What do these three readings have in common? They are all examples, to quote from the Lord’s prayer, of “…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” Consider the implications of that phrase. Whose kingdom? Is it a kingdom in Fairbanks, Juneau, or Washington DC? Who is on the throne of this Kingdom? Is it an elected official of a particular party? Are you on the throne of your kingdom?
Whose will are you most concerned about? Is it the will of the majority of residents of Fairbanks, or Alaska, or our great nation? Maybe it’s your own will or the will of your family and friends that most concerns you. That’s certainly understandable. What would it be like if we lived a life wherein “God’s will” was more important than each of our own wills? How would that work? What would that feel like?
We are halfway through Advent. Christmas is quickly approaching. We see Jesus in a barn, for there was no room for the Messiah and his family. Do you make room for the Messiah? We also look to the clouds for Jesus’ return. Do you imagine what that will be like? We hear prophesies of a completely different world following Jesus’ return and the coming of His kingdom. Do you ponder how things will change?
I wish you a meaningful Advent and a very Merry Christmas. Ponder the thoughts above as you look back to the manger, forward to the second coming, and all around for God’s Kingdom and Will to be done.
The Rev. Stephen Reed
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's Faith section on December 13, 2019
Married 27 years, 2 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog. Ordained & Chaplain for 20 years. Ministry philosophy - we're all in this together and Jesus leads the way. Hobbies: working in the woodshed, teaching, and competitive shooting