How Christ comes to be with us

While reading St. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth (cf. Matthew 1:18-25), two verses from that passage struck me which opened up a new path for me towards an understanding of this passage. First, I felt that the climax of the story in that passage is in verse 23 when Matthew quotes from the Old Testament, ‘the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Emmanuel, which means: God-with-us.’ I believe that quotation was a stamp, a seal, and a confirmation of who exactly Matthew is telling us about, his identity is ‘God-with-us’, for in the incarnation God came to be with us. That is what we celebrate at Christmas; that God came among us, dwelt among us, was like us, and was with us. It is also interesting to note that at the very beginning of his account Matthew already gives us a picture of the end or goal of Jesus’ coming to us which actually does not cease with Christmas but continues after the Resurrection, for at the very end of his gospel message, in his very last sentence he tells us that Jesus, God-with-us said, ‘I AM WITH YOU always even till the end of this world’, (Matthew 28:20)  I also noticed that Matthew begins in this way, ‘This is HOW Jesus Christ was born…’ (Matthew 1:18). Not ‘where’, not ‘when’, in fact, he doesn’t tell us where (in Bethlehem, in Judea), nor does he tell us when (during the days of King Herod) till chapter 2:1, what he concerns himself with in the first seven verses is HOW.

 
Thus, it seems to me that Matthew is not only telling us a literal story of how Christ came into the world, but, on a spiritual level, how he comes into our hearts and our lives. It would take us a great attention to detail in order to, sought of, pick out the clues the Holy Apostle drops for us as he narrates the Story, and this what I will try to do. I would also try to pay special attention to the person of Joseph because he takes the center stage in this story. So how is Christ born in our lives?
 
First,
There is a Marital Union: In the gospel passage, Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married, a wedding was about to take place. I will approach this on two levels. The reason why the union is significant is that, when God comes to us, we are usually in union with something, it might be a literal wedding like that of Mary and Joseph, or it might be a union of our hearts and something else, in this case it could be our work, studies etc, or a particular turn our life is about to take. When he encountered Peter, Peter was united to his work, fishing, that was where Christ met him and called him to be a fisher of men. (Luke 5:1-11). It is while we are at these events in our lives that Christ comes to be part of our lives. So he comes into the ordinariness and regular of our lives, our highs and lows. Marriage was a plan in the lives of Joseph and Mary which they had set out to accomplish, it was then that Jesus stepped in to meet them and work with them in that very normal event of their lives in order to bring forth extraordinary grace; salvation of mankind.
 
Again, a closer look at Marriage would be a familiar event in the spiritual goings-on of salvation history, for the nature of that covenantal bond was used by God countless times to describe his relationship with the people covenanted to him, in many places he refers to himself as the bridegroom and his people, his Church, as the bride. And so that tells something about the relationship God establishes with us and how he establishes that relationship; it is a relationship of family and the way in which he establishes that relationship in a covenantal manner does not just consist in our giving our lives to him, rather we give ourselves to him in faith and he gives himself to us through the sacramental action of the Church.
 
Secondly, there are plans to stop the Marriage in Honesty: Why, You may ask, does it seem like when God comes knocking our doors, in order to be part of lives, we do not seem to allow him, but are comfortable when we have him at a distance? We love God yes, we are his fans, we go to church yes, but we do not want to allow him further in, to be the Master of our souls, our intellect and will, to decide whatever happens in our lives. The answer is to be found in Joseph’s experience: due to fear (Matthew 1:20). Fear can be the reason why we do not allow God to work and walk with us in our ordinariness. In Joseph’s time, it was the abomination; that is what the people could have thought; they would have labeled his marriage an abomination and stoned Mary to death. In our case, it could be fear of what people might think of us,  fear that he would take everything from us, fear of what we might become, most of the time we have taken wrong models of holiness and fear that is what holiness is about. Other times we are afraid because his presence challenges our status quo and opens up to us new paths and creates a new perspective, a new horizon towards life, such that he gives life a new purpose, a new sense of direction that is more supernatural, that is eternal.
 
Third, God addresses our fears and doubts: Just as God sent his angel to calm Joseph’s fears in a dream. God also tries to calm our fears, to remind us that when we walk with him and allow him to work in our lives, our lives can only be for the better, our hearts can only find rest, truth, love and life, purpose and fulfillment in God. When both Our Holy Fathers, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI became Pope they told us not to be afraid of allowing Christ into our lives to take control of it, for he does not take anything from us, but instead he gives us everything, he is our everything. The question is, ‘do we listen at the moment of our fears to the voice of the Lord saying to us, ‘Courage Son, do not be afraid, I want to walk with you and it wouldn’t be by your power but by my Spirit’? In Joseph’s experience, God addressed his fears by sending an Angel, and he was able to discern the voice of God, even in a dream, are we attentive enough to discern the voice with which our Lord speaks to us? Do we pay close attention to the voice of the Church and her leaders about whom Jesus said in Luke 10:16, ‘whoever hears you, hears me’? Do we try to be frequent at Spiritual direction? Who is God using to address your fears, to send you a message of hope and love, and how exactly might God be addressing those fears? By words from people, by their example, or even by their experiences. In Matthew 1:21, the angel told Joseph, ‘You will call him…’, God makes us realize that when we work with him, we will be in fact seizing on life, through his inspiration, our decisions would take on a supernatural perspective, when we do things, when we conquer the world, we would do so with a higher reason, and a higher person, we will always have a part to play in that divino-human cooperation.
 
Fourth, we obey God’s voice: when he addresses our fears, we obey him and follow his lead, trusting him above all things. Joseph did so, and we could tell the result, he became God’s Father. In 1:24 we are told that he did what the angel asked him to do, despite the circumstances of the time, despite what people would think of him, he obeyed. And so, even if the world, our friends, our desires, or our human weaknesses say NO, we obey God and trust in his word, opening the gates for him to walk triumphantly into our lives.

From your friend and brother: Chibuzor F. Ogamba

 

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Author: Chibuzor F. Ogamba

Chibuzor F. Ogamba is a Nigerian Medical Student, Writer, Poet, Blogger, Public Speaker and Catholic Apologist

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