Commentary on the Gospel of

John Shea, S.J. - Creighton University's Biology Department


Holidays like Christmas can become predictable over time. We fall into a regular routine and even look forward to celebrating the same traditions and customs each year. We find comfort knowing how the house will be decorated, when the presents will be opened, who will show up at each party, and what will served at each meal. We like predictability, especially at Christmas when surrounded by our friends and family.


Today’s readings remind us that the Christmas story was anything but predictable. The first reading alludes to a king who will “reign and govern wisely… [doing] what is just and right in the land.” Most people at the time believed that the Messiah would be a mighty king who would liberate the faithful from their oppressors.


Instead, Matthew tells us the story of Mary, betrothed to Joseph, but not yet living with him. Despite this, Mary is “found with child through the Holy Spirit” which suggests infidelity to Joseph. Infidelity at that time was punishable by stoning. Can this really be the origin story of a mighty king? Did our Messiah really have such an inauspicious beginning?


The angel reassures Joseph that Jesus will rescue his people from sin and will be called Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us.” This is the long-awaited Messiah. And we know that Jesus will be born in a manger and will be crucified. Nothing about this Christmas story is predictable.


Most of us experienced an unpredictable and uncertain Christmas in 2020 and we may face the same situation this year. Perhaps we can see this as an invitation to share in and relive the unpredictability of the original Christmas story.



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