Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Today’s text

Matthew 1:18-25

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.' Now all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: Look! The virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means 'God-is-with-us.' When Joseph woke up he did what the angle of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home; he had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.


We don’t know much about Joseph. He never speaks in the Bible. We never hear this voice, his thoughts.
Mary’s voice rings with joy and faith through the stories of Jesus birth, but Joseph is silent. We know him only through his deeds.

If we imagine him at all, we might see him trudging along, rope in hand, leading a donkey on which Mary rides as they make their way south, to Bethlehem. None of this is in the Bible, but popular images long ago created this picture in our minds. 

We have no way of knowing what ran though Joseph’s mind as they made their way among the rocky Judean hills. But there must have been voices and questions.

There was the voice of reason that said, “Joseph, be smart. This child of Mary’s is not yours. Break the engagement and get yourself out of this mess. Nothing good can come from it.”

There was the voice of law and tradition that said, “Joseph, you are not required to take her or have anything to do with this child of questionable origin. This is not a new situation. Listen to the law, and let it guide you out of this embarrassment.”

Then there was that other voice, the one that came at night in the middle of his sleep … with an amazing message: “Do not be afraid, Joseph. Take Mary. Care for the child. The child within her is holy, from the Holy Spirit. He will save his people. They will call him Immanuel, God is with us.

“Joseph, the child is a sign. Every time you look at him, you will know … God is with you. This is Immanuel. Just look at him … and know.

Now, I ask you, who believes voices that come in the night? Who does what the voices tell them to do?

Crazy people? Foolish people? People who believe that God really does speak to us through our hearts?
Joseph has a decision. What voice should he listen to? What should he do?

Shall he do what rational, thoughtful people do? Or should he ignore the voice of reason and follow the voice that says there is something more important, something deeper and more compelling than reason or law … or even wisdom?

He listens … and follows the deeper voice, the messenger of God who comes to him at night and tells him that is better, more real and faithful to take a risk for the sake of loving God, for the sake of loving Mary, for the sake of trusting God will yet be with him.

He steps into the unknown as if stepping off a cliff, trusting that the Love who speaks in his dreams will be there to catch him no matter what.

He clings to the words, “Do not fear. I am sending Immanuel, God with us. Wait, watch, trust this … no matter what happens, no matter where your journey takes you. This child is a sign that you are never alone and never will be.”

Immanuel means God is fully immersed into human life. Our ordinary life is fully embraced by God, our highs and lows, our challenges amid the messiness of daily living.

I am here, God says. Where ever your path takes you I will meet you on the way. I am there at the start of the day and its ending. 

We never hear Joseph’s voice, but we see his faith. There is nothing showy or dramatic about it. It is the faith of one who listens to the voice of God that moves him beyond an ordinary life to a life of extraordinary love.
Have you ever known someone to do that? Have you ever done that?

There is nothing more beautiful. 

The people and that surrender themselves to extraordinary love are those that most move and fill our hearts. They are the ones who fill us with the awareness of Immanuel, God with us.

Joseph may be silent in Bible, but he invites us to listen to our souls, to pay heed to the voice of God, calling us beyond ourselves and what we think right and reasonable that our lives might become extraordinary, filled with light and love, a sign of Immanuel … even when we don’t say a word.

Pr. David L.Miller

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