The maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means, “God is with us”.

These words came from Isaiah around 740 BC. We often say that God’s ways are not our ways; the delay in fulfilling this promise of Isaiah displays this saying!

It seems that God promised something, that would be delivered in God’s time, which by our way of computing would be 740 years later! We are so used to having appointments at definite times, not being late or too early, just punctual. As we read this story of the incarnation we are being tested just as Mary and Joseph were tested.

An Angel told Mary that she would become pregnant. Imagine Mary’s surprise and shock: she was a young girl of 14/15 years, who, although she was promised to Joseph could not understand what was being asked of her as she and Joseph had not come together and had no sexual relations. I wonder did Mary talk to her parents, Anna and Joachim and if so, what were their reactions? I’m sure they were as shocked and worried as any parents would be today.

Joseph was also in a quandary when he heard that Mary would was pregnant. He obviously loved and trusted her and did not want to shame her. If he reported her infidelity she would be put to death! He decided to send her back quietly to her family. He must have been very bothered and troubled!

Having made his decision, Joseph was exhausted and fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed that an angel told him to trust Mary, that she was doing what God asked of her, and he was to take her as his wife. Joseph must have been a man of tremendous faith and trust in God. It is worthwhile to reflect on all that God asked of these families, emotionally, socially and spiritually.

Thinking about this story has made me realise that God, our Creator, depends so much on us creatures. We have been given the gift of free will, a powerful gift which informs all our decisions, from choosing to get up in the morning to making life changing choices. Our daily choices make us the people we are now, how we relate to others, and what we prioritise in life. As Christians we are invited to continue the work of Creation and Redemption. When Jesus said, “Come follow me”, he invited us to live as he did: to believe in the God of unconditional love, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.


Cora McCullagh O.P.