December 31, 2017

Sunday after the Nativity of Christ; Octoechos Tone 5; The Leave-taking of the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, Christmas; Our Venerable Mother Melania the Roman (439)
No fasting or abstinence.

Galatians 1:11-19; Matthew 2:13-23

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Today’s Gospel sets Joseph the Betrothed as a model for how to live. Perhaps in some ways we can all identify with him. His story shows us that we don’t have to be young or free from worldly cares in order to serve God; neither do we have to be especially enthusiastic volunteers. Instead, we simply have to obey His calling. We may not always like it and may refuse at first, as did Joseph and as did figures like Moses in the Old Testament. But God can be patient and persistent and use us to His glory nonetheless.

The miracle of Christ’s Nativity required human cooperation in so many ways. No one forced Mary to agree to become the Theotokos. The wise men could have decided that the trip to Palestine was just too far. Joseph could have abandoned the woman and the child entrusted to his care. But he didn’t, despite the awkwardness, the danger, and the inconvenience. On several occasions, he probably swallowed hard, steadied his nerves, kept his mouth shut, and prayed for God to help him one day at a time as he pressed forward.

As we celebrate the season of Christmas, let us remember that the Son of God took flesh in a world where people make choices. It’s a world where we all have our priorities, our goals, our vision of what would be nice in life. The problem is that God’s calling doesn’t always fit with our preferences. We, like Joseph, are called to obey nonetheless, to respond in freedom, and to play our role in the unfolding of God’s salvation in the world.

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