This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along ith a headline from world news:
To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city;* it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.*
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge!
A splendid song for Christmas Eve,when Christian people remember that the Lord of Hosts is indeed with us as a helpless child. This is how God disarms us: he comes seeking our protection; we have to be for him a refuge and a strength, a present help in time of trouble. In the smallest and most vulnerable God comes to the world saying, “Be still, and know that I am God!”
Where did the psalm writer get the idea of the river in the City of God? Not from Jerusalem. From Babylon maybe, the place of captivity. In any case it’s an inspiring image, especially for people from lands always tending to desert. There will be plentiful refreshment in God’s city and that brings joy. In my worst and driest times I can use these words as prayer. “There is a river…” ; on Christmas Eve, thinking of God-with-us as a baby, I can say, “There is a river…” The river is the life of God.
18 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. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But 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. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;* and he named him Jesus.
This seems a slightly strange reading for today, but it allows me to note that the best commentary on this passage is by the late U. A. Fanthorpe, a splendid poet who wrote a poem each Christmas for her friends. You can get this collection from Enitharmon Press, U.K. This is called “Joseph”
I am Joseph, carpenter,
Of David’s kingly line,
I wanted an heir; discovered
My wife’s son wasn’t mine.
I am an obstinate lover,
Loved Mary for better or worse.
Wouldn’t stop loving when I found
Someone Else came first.
Mine was the likeness I hoped for
When the first-born man-child came.
But nothing of him was me. I couldn’t
Even choose his name.
I am Joseph, who wanted
To teach my own boy how to live.
My lesson to my foster son:
Endure. Love. Give.
Still, he might have added “Receive”. May you receive divine and human love this Christmas so that you can endure, love and give.