We began the Season of Advent by looking at John the Baptist and his message of our needing to ‘get ready’ for the birth of Christ… Then we looked at the Shepherds as they were visited by the Angels, announcing Christ’s birth, and also at the townspeople who just missed that whole event. Last week it was the Three Wise Men/Magi and the star that they chose to follow, and how it led them to an awareness of Christ with them. We have two readings today, from Luke and Matthew, to help us wrestle with what we may learn from Mary and Joseph in terms of our getting ready. The first reading, from Luke 1:26-38 introduces us to Mary.
Think about what Mary represents for us with regard to our readiness for Christ’s presence to be birthed within us. Mary wasn’t any great intellect with profound insight and faith; deep understanding. No, just a girl really. And yet, I’d like to suggest that she brings beautiful qualities: (1) simple obedience! (2) Availability! Accessibility! Vulnerability! And (3) Courage.
And then Matthew 1:18-25 which introduces us to Joseph and to what he represents. How about his willingness to risk? His determination NOT to do the necessarily popular or expected thing – but the RIGHT thing?
Stephanie Landsem[i] (author) writes of how the status of betrothal was almost identical to the status of a married woman. A betrothed woman who lay with a man that was not her intended husband, was punished as if she had committed adultery. Deuteronomy 22 is quite clear about this and the appropriate punishment: If a man marries a girl who is claimed to be a virgin, and then finds that she is not, “they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death” And If a man has relations within the walls of a city with a maiden who is betrothed, “you shall bring them both out to the gate of the city and there stone them to death.” (V2 23)
Joseph would have been entirely within his rights—even within his duty—to expose her sin and witness her execution. It was only his internal conviction – his own faithful acceptance of the angel’s message that saved both Mary’s life and the life of her unborn baby, the Incarnation of God.
Imagine her courage! Mary of Nazareth, unwed and pregnant, knew the punishment she faced and had nothing but the story of an angel to tell her parents and Joseph, the man she had promised to marry. She would have known exactly what she would face after her faith-filled consent to the visiting angel’s message. And yet, still, she said yes. She simply trusted that God would take care of her, and God did, through Joseph.
And Joseph, instead of doing the expected thing, he had the courage and deep faith of his convictions instead to do what he was given to know was the right thing!
What do you think happens as that same Angel comes to us in these modern times with that same message?
What do modern day Mary`s and Josephs still do?
What do you do?
I cannot say where it lives, only that it comes to the heart that is open,
to the heart that asks, to the heart that does not turn away.
It can take practice, days of tugging at what keeps us bound,
seasons of pushing against what keeps our dreaming small.
When it arrives it might surprise you by how quiet it is,
how it moves with such grace for possessing such power.
But you will know it by the strength that rises from within you to meet it,
by the release of the knot in the center of your chest that suddenly lets go.
You will recognize it by how still your fear becomes as it loosens its grip,
perhaps never quite leaving you,
but calmly turning into joy as you enter the life that is finally your own.
—Jan Richardson (The Cure for Sorrow)
WE become the Mary & Josephs that 2020 needs as we allow holy Christ-presence-inspired-courage to arise from within us – bringing us into courageous alignment with what God has always intended us to be, and do/ as we allow ourselves to be available – like Mary – to flow within that stream of God’s grace/ to become properly accessible/ allowing our most open vulnerability/ and then, like Joseph to be empowered to do the right thing in whatever situation we may find ourselves, however unpopular that may seem to be…
To what do you sense are we being called to be open? Toward what courageous action – not necessarily the popular thing – are you being drawn? What special act of kindness? Forgiveness? Justice? Compassion? Mercy? Hope? Where is all this leaving you just 3 days before Christmas?
The Rev Deb Bowman describes what I’m calling her coming into an awareness of Christ’s powerful Presence in her life: It was some years ago as she was having her infant son baptized, and not yet quite part of the UCC, “As I listened to the scripture and the hymns and the orientation to what the United Church was about, I recognized a vague memory about hope and possibilities and justice – and I was converted from cynicism and despair. That is the call to our church now—to find the capacity to offer hope to those who despair at this point in the world’s history.”[ii]
Mary & Joseph: We are called to be those people! We are called to be the recognizers, receivers, and bearers of Christ’s Presence and purposes to a world so trapped in selfish fear. May we all have enough of Christ’s Advent LOVE within us, that we may properly live into that awesome calling…
How courageously are you bearing Christ’s presence?
What could that mean for you and how you are currently living?
What would those who know you say about that?
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2019.
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[i]See 2013 post entitled ‘Unwed and Pregnant in Ancient Israel’ https://www.stephanielandsem.com/2013/12/unwed-and-pregnant/
[ii] Op Cit Lorraine Ashdown, Facebook post, December 16, 2019