The Stars of Advent and Christmas – A Reflection


John the Baptist very appropriately ushers us into Advent.  As a prophet, he fulfilled the task of preparing his world for the coming of the Messiah.  His message of repentance reminds us, as all of the prophets did, that God’s people needed and longed for the coming of a Saviour.  As a herald of glad tidings, John announced the Saviour’s arrival in the person of Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God”.

John prepared for Jesus’ coming with quiet prayer.  Today he would invite us to join him in praying “Come Lord Jesus”.  At the same time he announced Jesus’ coming to the world that needed Jesus’ love and compassionate mercy.  John once again invites us to join through our life in this announcement of Good News.

Unlike John, Joseph seems to be a “nobody” in the Gospels.  True, he is mentioned by name at the beginning of Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the infancy of Jesus.  But then he disappears, or does he?  Like the framing or the foundation of a dwelling Joseph provided Jesus’s family history.  He nurtured and cared for Jesus and taught Him through the skills of ancient carpentry to build anew.

In his response to the angel’s command “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife”(Mt. 1:20), Joseph became the human model and guide for Jesus’ ultimate obedience to the Father by which He became the foundation and frame of our new life.

Mary with her family and friends prayed for the coming of the Messiah.  The answer to her prayer was earth shattering – an unmarried virgin but a mother.  Her whole life must have seemed to be in jeopardy.  Luke’s gospel captures her terror and then her commitment: “How can this be?… Let it be done to me according to your word.”

So simple but infinitely complex – the Word became flesh – and creation began again.  We share in that new creation, in the life of Jesus.  Advent is a time for us to listen attentively. So that Christmas becomes a time to respond wholeheartedly to God’s Word as Mary did.

It is hard to imagine an infant surviving without a family.  Mother and father feed, keep warm, wash and keep an infant safe.  This was Mary`s and Joseph`s task with the baby Jesus lying in a manger, a scene that has graced thousands of images over the centuries.  Behind the beauty of this scene, however, lies a profound and saving mystery.

The Word of God has truly become one with humankind.  The Son of God has emptied himself out so totally that he shivers, and cries and reaches out to a mother and foster father, to shepherds and their bleating sheep, and to wisemen and their strange camels.  With John the Baptist, Joseph and Mary we whisper O Magnum Mysterium! 

Joseph Schner, SJ, is a professor of Psychology and Religion at the Toronto School of Theology.

  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 04:37h, 19 December Reply

    A beautiful, intimate glimpse of the account of the infant Messiah’s birth – Jesus.

  • Vicky Chen
    Posted at 07:28h, 19 December Reply

    I will be equally happy to be the donkey in all these. A blessed Christmas to you, Fr. Joe. Oh, and happy upcoming birthday!!

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 08:57h, 19 December Reply

    Thank you Joe!

  • Grace Colella
    Posted at 15:42h, 19 December Reply

    Thank you, Fr. Joe, for the consoling words of the coming of Jesus.

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