An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet.Matthew 1:20b-22
When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant and he knew he was not the father, it would have brought great shame on both him and Mary, as well as her family. However, he listened to the angel and he enabled Jesus to be born and raised within a supportive and loving family. Mary submitted to God when she accepted the role of Jesus’ mother when the angel came to her. Both Mary and Joseph had a choice – they didn’t have to say yes. But by saying yes, they made their own lives more difficult than they already were.
We constantly hear from around the world about vulnerable women who are abused, condemned and then rejected by their communities. In our own communities, we hear about violence within families – violence perpetrated by men and women with horrific consequences. We acknowledge that hurt has be caused by Christians to many within our own communities whether it be people who have divorced, people in same gender relationships, single women whose babies have been taken from them, anyone who has been judged unfairly by the church. Violence, exclusion and shame are not the way modelled to us by Christ. We acknowledge that as Christians, we must do better.
Life is complex and we must acknowledge that we all make mistakes.
We remember the way that churches have condemned people unjustly throughout history, and even now.
We remember the gentleness of Jesus as he met and listened to all people, no matter the labels applied to them by others.
We remember the labels we have applied to people throughout history, and today.
We offer now our sorrow for our failures and commit ourselves to putting right the suffering endured by our brothers and sisters.
We pray in the name of your most gentle son,