Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent Reflections: 09

Well, I had at least 3 more thoughts I wanted to share concerning Advent this year, but this will (maybe) be the last.  For the (maybe) final one, I want to focus on my need to changes and upon a character I rarely think about in the birth narratives of Jesus - his dad.  No, not His Dad, His dad, Joseph.

Mary is so fascinating to me in her praying, believing, self-sacrificing, and praising that when given the chance, I prefer to talk about her.

Joseph, though, needs some air time.  Read this:

 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Mt 1:18-19)

  Okay, men, if you are honest, what is your reaction here?  Your fiance is not only pregnant but she emphatically promises that she has not slept with anyone and that God Himself impregnated her miraculously through the Holy Spirit!  Just think what kind of reaction that would have garnered from every other man alive in that era, in that community, in that culture.

  I am interested in the language Matthew uses to say that Mary "was found to be pregnant."  Not, "she told Joseph" but she was "found" to be pregnant.  How much time passed between the immaculate conception and Joseph's discovery?  How much did she agonize the coming confession?  Did she question herself?  Did she have moments where it seemed all but a dream?  How many mornings did she have to wake up sick before she knew she had to tell?  How much of a bump did she have to have to know that this was for real?

I know all that is unanswerable, but fascinating all the same.

What is also compelling here is the type of man - "righteous" Matthew says - Joseph shows himself to be.  He did not call her crazy.  He did not tweet about this.  He did not post a scathing comment on facebook.  He did not call her up and cuss her out.  No name-calling, no slander, no anger, no revenge.  His inclination was not the preservation of the over-inflated male ego, but the protection of the heart and reputation of this young woman.  Exceptionally outrageous and completely absurd in a time and place so dominated by the interests of men.

What selflessness.  I have many times affirmed that God chose Mary for a specific reason.  So did He Joseph.  Not only was he selfless in the face of apparent great personal rejection, betrayal, and deceit, but Joseph was also one with a great capacity for allowing God to be God.

Read on:   

 But after he had considered this, an 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 what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (v20-25).

Joseph allowed God to speak into His life unfathomable insanity.  Joseph let God call Him into a level of obedience that would cost Him personal, social, religious, and familial sacrifice.  He believed the unbelievable and obeyed with immediate and unquestioned resolve.  I want to be this type of man - unconcerned with ego, loving to those who harm me, open to wildly creative God, obedient no matter the cost.  "Righteous" is the word, I think. 

"Immanuel, we celebrate that you are God-with-us. And we thank you that you came to be with us through such remarkable people as these two lowly Galileans.  When we read of your life - loving the unlovable, accepting the rejected, washing the feet of others, etc., we see their imprints all over you.  Make us more like them so that we can be more like you. And fashion us who call ourselves 'men of God' in the mold of Joseph. Amen"

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