It's the most wonderful time of the year! With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling "be of Good Cheer" It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Do you think so?
I wonder if the harried salesperson in Filene's who is dreading the "return" cycle of gifts thinks that it is the most wonderful time of the year.
I wonder if hurried and harried drivers dodging other hurried and harried drivers in mall parking lots around the city think this is the most wonderful time of the year.
I wonder if those who have no home for the holidays, or have no one at home for the holidays, or whose holidays are filled with absence rather than presence, because of the loss of a loved one think this is the most wonderful time of the year.
In today's Gospel we hear that it wasn't the "most wonderful time of the year" for Joseph whose life was turned upside down by the news of Mary, his espoused wife's pregnancy. You can see and feel his "wondering" what he should do.
We hear of his struggle to accept that his life will no longer be the same because of what God is asking him to embrace. Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. "Do not be afraid", he hears in a dream. Is there anything more wonderful to hear than those words?
For many in our world, in our church, even here in this community, it's not the most wonderful time of the year. But deep down, we really want it to be. We want "peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled". We want joy to the world. We want God's love to be so tangible that it can be seen in a mother cradling her new-born or even in a mother cradling her crucified son in her arms. We want to shout with the angels, Glory to God in the highest and peace to God's people on earth. And that's why we work so hard at trying to make this the most wonderful time of the year.
Deep down I think we who celebrate Christmas realize how "wonderful it is" not because of shimmering lights, presents under the tree, even the blessings of friends and family coming home for Christmas. The wonder is simply this. The eternal God loves us so much that God desires to be Emmanuel, God-with-us. This my brothers and sisters is not an abstraction but in the life of Jesus whose birth we celebrate today and whose birth in us we continue to ask for and hope for.