Trust: Holding Babies and the Birth of Christ

This sermon was originally preached at Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California on December 22, 2019. To listen to the full recording, visit our podcast, “Mission Hills United Methodist Church” or search Mission Hills United Methodist Church wherever you get your podcasts.


Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,

    you who lead Joseph like a flock!

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth

    before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.

Stir up your might,

    and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;

    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,

    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?

You have fed them with the bread of tears,

    and given them tears to drink in full measure.

You make us the scorn of our neighbors;

    our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;

    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,

    the one whom you made strong for yourself.

Then we will never turn back from you;

    give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;

    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

 

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.


Something about my childhood that’s pretty unique, and that I’m thankful for, is that my mom ran a daycare out of our home for the first 14 years of my life. Every day, I’d come home from school to a house full of babies and toddlers I could play with. One of my favorite things to do was to hold the babies as they woke up from their naps. After running home off the bus, the first question I’d ask my mom is if I could wake *whatever baby there was at the time* up from their nap. I’d go into the room and pick them up, still asleep, and cuddle them and rock them until they wouldn’t let me anymore.

In my 26 years of life, I’ve held more babies than I can count, yet I still am a little bit intimidated by them, their fragile little bodies, their squirming, their turn-on-a-dime personalities. There’s something about that experience that brings on a little bit of fear, like no matter how many times you’ve held a newborn, you’re both ready, yet never quite ready to hold another one.

Today, we read about a similar sentiment of ‘not being ready’. I want you to picture being Mary in this situation. You, Mary, are engaged to a guy that is well-liked in his community, Joseph. One day, you find out, from the Holy Spirit, that you are pregnant. Joseph doesn’t want to ruin his reputation, or yours, so he decides he’ll just quietly end things. He’s just about to do this, when an angel swoops in, and tells him to change his mind, that he shouldn’t be afraid to marry you.

Wild, right?

Joseph is in his head here, and for good reason I think. His rational thoughts are telling him that there’s no way this pregnancy is what she’s saying it is. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s a place we can all find ourselves in, doubting because something just doesn’t seem to click. Joseph was afraid, because his head was speaking something different than his spirit, his faith was.

Then, the things the angel was saying turned out to actually be true, and you stay with Joseph, and you have this baby that will be the Savior of the world. I would imagine, that being Mary, you are in no way ready for what is about to take place, and you are perhaps scared. Because your world is about to be rocked.

We all have anxieties and expectations and worries surrounding what it will be like to encounter God, to connect with the Creator in our lives. What will we say? How will it happen? How do I know it is God? These questions may make us want to wait even longer, until we truly are ready to experience God. These things exist, but the good news for us, is that God isn’t going to let us wait to experience God.

As Advent people, we are in a season of joyful expectation, of awaiting the coming of Christ, but God doesn’t make us wait for the joy and the hope and the goodness that the story brings. Because we’ve always been ready, and we will never be fully ready for Jesus. Just like the hesitancy of holding a newborn baby, we may not always know what to expect in our faith, but we still are invited to embrace it, to take a hold of our faith with open arms, ready to experience it in all its goodness and squirminess and maybe even screaming-ness. The unpredictability and the fragility of our encounters with God is what makes them real.

Joseph was about to say no and walk away, trusting his own wisdom and not God’s. And then the angel spoke. And Joseph listened, even though he didn’t feel ready. Mary would have barely been a high schooler, engaged to an older guy and only just dreaming of their future. In no way could she have been ready for the events that took place. Still Mary listened too, and she heard God speak to her. And Mary trusted that voice of love. Love speaks, and we can put our trust in that, even when we feel we aren’t ready. We can trust the leading of the spirit, that being who allows us to trust in the journey of faith.

This Advent, may we say yes to new experiences, even scary ones, because each of them are moments we might encounter the Divine. May we recognize our own very human emotions that surround our lives, calling them good and holy. And may we, like Mary, be open to and trust the wonder and excitement this Jesus story brings, no matter how unprepared we feel.

Let’s pray:

God of tradition and newness, present and future, we give you thanks for the ways you inspire us to grow, evolve, and progress. As we journey toward you, alongside you, remind us that even when we don’t feel ready, you call us still, strengthening and guiding us along the way. In your loving name we trust and we pray, Amen.

One thought on “Trust: Holding Babies and the Birth of Christ

  1. great post – like your story connection of holding all those babies to the brith of Christ and readiness – so well done.
    and whew – how wonderful to enjoy the daycare like that – 🙂
    wishing you a merry christmas

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