Summary: Faced with a decision such as the one Joseph faced, what would you decide to do? Could you believe Mary? Could you accept her situation? How about accepting God’s involvement in the event? What is your decision today?

This week at our house the Christmas decorations have been going up. It’s funny how even the hanging of the decorations have their traditions and rituals about them.

Once every waterglobe is set out, once all the candles are lit, once every piece of evergreen garland is restretched from its long stay in the box for the past year, and once every ornament is hung on the tree,

then comes the traditional Christmas decorating refreshments and the traditional Christmas video to officialy kick off the Christmas season in the Garrison household.

This last bit of tradtion - the video - is a bit different from my own childhood. I grew up in the days before VCR’s, so we were forced to wait until the “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” came on the television and my parents were then forced to see them one more time.

But my children have the priviledge of watching these whenever they wish - and the two I mentioned are among the chosen few we watch the evening the Christmas tree goes up.

I still see them every year at Christmas, and in fact we just have. They may not be as fresh in your memory as they are mine...

but do you remember how Charlie Brown searches for the true meaning of Christmas and how Linus tells him the Christmas story recorded in the second chapter of Luke?

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" (Luke 2:8-14)

Then Linus turns to Charlie Brown and says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

What is Christmas all about? Lets define it this way: Christmas is the divine action of the living and gracious God through the gift of Jesus Christ as our Savior, and the human response to accept this gift.

Have you ever stopped to wonder, how would the Christmas story be different if Mary or Joseph’s response been different tof God? In Mary we see the response of a woman to events I couldn’t possibly understand. I don’t imagine she could have either. The ramifications of being pregnant before marriage were great back then and SHE KNEW she had committment no questionable behavior. Yet she accepts the actions of God that are too grand and lofty for us human to understand, and she accepts them by all appearances so easily. She responds to a difficult situation as God’s servant. Amazing.

Tonight we have the story of Joseph. Joseph does not have the physical evidence and knowledge that Mary has concerning Mary’s premarital behavior. He only has the word of Mary and the visit of an angel in a dream.

Today we would be extremely skeptical of both.

I’m not too sure we can truly understand the severity of Joseph’ perdicament. Premarital sex and babies born to unwed mothers, even teenagers as Mary was, are so common anymore that we hardly blink when we learn of such a case. We just accepts such situations as common and normal occurances within our society.

Situations that make us stop and think have become much more complex, the definitive black and white lines difused in to shadows of gray.

Last Sunday, Advanced Cell Technology announced it had cloned a human embryo for the first time in America. Their purpose is not for cloning human beings, but to aide in stem cell research. They are searching for cures and treatment for diseases like Diabetes and Parkinson’s. They are interested in something called theraputic cloning, where a person’s own DNA could be used to grow new organs needed for transplant - like a heart or kidney - without the problems of rejection to donated organs and tissues.

Not only were they able to follow standard cloning techniques to develop human embryos to the sixth division level, but interestingly enough, they were able to cause an egg to begin division without any fertilization at all.

John Rennie, editor-in-chief of Scientific American magazine was quoted as saying, "You hesitate to describe it as a virgin birth, but it is sort of in that vein."

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