Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25
What is a barrier? When I looked up dictionary definitions of “barrier”, I found: A law, rule, problem, etc., that makes something difficult or impossible. Something that makes it difficult for people to understand each other. An obstacle that prevents movement or access.
I think of Jesus as the opposite of a barrier. But try to imagine being either Mary or Joseph in this story/predicament. Or how about Jesus, for that matter. You might actually think the unborn Jesus could be a “barrier” in this situation. He could be viewed as a “problem that makes things difficult or impossible” – at least for Mary and Joseph, and their families. And later for Rome. And Mary being pregnant with Jesus could easily be “something that makes it difficult for Mary and Joseph, and their families, and their community, to understand each other”. Imagine living in that time and culture and approaching your parents or future in-laws with your blessed news and hoping and wondering if everyone will understand each other – or believe each other. And how about God, creating all of this “difficulty”?
Mary and Joseph do have a common connection and source for their good news. Both were informed by an angel of the Lord that Mary’s pregnancy was a child from the Holy Spirit. I wonder if that brought a sense of peace, or confusion? But, unlike the very difficult social, cultural, and relational barriers Mary and Joseph were facing because of Jesus, the angels spoke of Jesus as “Great,” “Son of the Most High,” “Son of God,” “Savior,” “Emmanuel/God is with us.” The angel Gabriel also said to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God”.
The angels were preparing Mary and Joseph for the barrier-breaking, peace-seeking Jesus who would show us and teach us how to live and love as barrier-breaking, peace-seeking people. Preparing for the Jesus who spent his life disrupting and dismantling barriers, disturbing the status quo in pursuit of true peace and equal access. The Jesus who moved toward the margins, listened with compassion, paid attention, spoke truth, challenged systems and individuals, and was a self-emptying living bridge.
Prayer: Loving and Gracious God, help us to seek peace and break barriers as Jesus lived and taught. Not by avoiding barriers, not by overpowering barriers, and not by becoming a barrier (except to become a barrier to harm). May we courageously and compassionately reach out, move towards, listen, discern, engage in brave and respectful conversations and actions, seek common connections, challenge ourselves and others by seeking and speaking truth. And may we trust the angels that “Nothing will be impossible with God.” Amen.