We are accustomed to hearing the story of Jesus’ birth as recounted by the community of Luke. We wonder with shepherds in the field, sing with angel choirs and welcome the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths. (Oh, and we add a touch of Matthew by welcoming the Magi in January.)
Which basically means we ignore the gift of the community of Matthew and the perspective they bring to the birth of Jesus. The Christian worship calendar focuses on Matthew’s gospel through the coming year, and during this Advent we will tell Matthew’s story of the nativity.
Matthew recounts a story of kings, of power and peace, of uncertainty and hope. In a long genealogy (that we usually skip), we are introduced to Jesus’ lineage of kings, culprits and survivors. No “heavenly host” arrives to glow in the night, but a lone angel appears to Joseph. There is no journey to Bethlehem, no manger, because Mary and Joseph reside in Bethlehem. And the only visitors are wise men (Magi) from the East. (We aren’t even told how many.)
What we discover is that this child will be Emmanuel, “God with us,” that he brings healing (shalom, peace), that he is a threat to kings and a wonder to strangers. What we celebrate is that God brings peace by becoming present “with us” in a world with a history of violence.
So our theme this Advent season is an invitation to reflect the love of God: “This Christmas, to Make Peace, Give Presence.” In our celebrations, our devotions and our witness, we have an opportunity to be a source of peace. The gift for which our world yearns doesn’t fit in a box under a tree or a sock hung by the fire. Peace grows from our presence with one another. Healing comes when we notice one another.
Through the ministries of this season, through the carols we sing, through the feasts we share at a common table, may we “Make Peace” through our presence.