This is how Jesus Christ was born. A young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph from King David's family. But before they were married, she learned that she was going to have a baby by God's Holy Spirit. Joseph was a good man and did not want to embarrass Mary in front of everyone. So he decided to quietly call off the wedding. While Joseph was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, "Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her. Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." So the Lord's promise came true, just as the prophet had said, "A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel," which means "God is with us."
We all know the Annunciation―the episode that marks the beginning of the story of our redemption. In fact, many theologians tell us that the Incarnation of Jesus was the sole redemptive act that reconciled humankind once and for all with our loving God. But the Annunciation story that most of us remember is the one in Luke’s Gospel [Luke 1:26-38] where Gabrielle appears to Mary with the news of her role as mother of Jesus. In the above reading, Matthew has the angel telling Joseph this good news and tweaks the story in other ways―it is only in Matthew that we are reminded of the prophecy in Isaiah [7:14] that Jesus will be “God with us.” Indeed each of the Gospel writers had different objectives in writing their gospels so what do some of the unique points in Matthew’s version of the story mean?
First a little background. Growing up in Catholic parochial schools, I was taught at an early age that we could find our God in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments (especially in the Eucharist) and in each other. While I believed this from an intellectual standpoint, it took me more than forty years before I believed this in my heart―especially the part about finding God in other people.
When I read Matthew’s Annunciation story, I am clearly reminded that “good men” (and women) are key to finding and understanding how God can truly be with us and in us. If God could take on human form then surely we are not only created in God’s image, but in a very special and unique way we bring the face of God to others. Some twenty-five years ago I saw this clearly as scores of people, many I had never seen or known before, supported Barb and I when two of our sons and Barb’s dad were seriously injured in a head-on auto accident. Since then I have been keenly aware of how so many “good men and women” have touched my life in so many little and big ways. In the days before cell phones I had a tire blowout on the San Diego Freeway in Southern California, but managed to safely maneuver my car out of traffic. Within ten minutes eight separate people stopped to see if I needed help―some were people I knew but others were strangers. When family members have been ill or in the hospital, there have been many people who have reached out and shown me so many faces of my loving God. These and many other incidents have convinced me that we are all the face of God for each other. How truly blest we are that God came among us and remains with us today!
Who have been the "good men" and women in your life? Who are the people who have helped you when there was little in it for them? How else have you experienced God in those you know?