Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 18, 2022
May the words of my mouth and meditations of each heart be wholly acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
I have a confession to make, one that I hope doesn’t make you think less of me.
I have never seen an angel.
I have never had an angel appear to me, in a dream or otherwise. I’ve never had one knock at the door, that I’m aware of, never had one bring me tidings, of any kind.
And y’all, I’m am totally fine with that. That does not hurt my feelings. I do not feel left out.
I think the Good Lord knows that if an angel were to appear to me with a message from God, that whole event would scare me out of my wits and render me unfit for further duty.
And honestly, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable response.
I mean, we talk a lot about wanting to know God’s will for us, and we ask in our prayers for God to be with us, and we ask for God to use us in whatever way we can be most useful, and we talk about people being “called” to do things. We respect that language and those experiences.
Especially when they happen to other people. Sure! Yes, do what God asks of you. You should definitely do that.
But now, how many of us are really ready to have our lives and plans and decisions completely disrupted by God’s will?
How many of us would actually be jazzed when that dramatic Angel-in-a-Dream shows up?
Or be super-psyched to finally have to acknowledge that gentle but persistent still-small-voice that just won’t stop needling at us?
How many of us would really sign up for what’s described in Matthew?1
Joseph and Mary are betrothed, but they are not living together. And yet, Mary turns up pregnant. Now, the gospel tells us that Joseph was a “righteous man,” and because he was “unwilling to expose [Mary] to public disgrace,” he “planned to dismiss her quietly.”
But let’s note here, folks: he was going to dismiss her. Yes, he was going to keep it on the down-low, but nonetheless, he was not going to marry a pregnant girl.
And it’s nice that he wasn’t going to go out of his way to expose her to public disgrace and the subsequent public punishment, but—plot spoiler—people would have eventually figured out that Mary was having a baby and that she was not married to Joseph. So while Joseph’s plan
was to dismiss her quietly—his plan also included leaving her to suffer the fate of a young, unmarried, pregnant girl in a ferociously patriarchal ancient culture, a culture with strict ideas about what happens to unwed mothers.
And everything in Joseph’s society and everyone in his world would have supported his decision.
If you’re not the father of that baby, then you, Joseph, are under no obligation to go through with this marriage.
The law and the culture would have been on his side.
You want to walk away from this one? Walk away, my man. You’re on solid ground—
his world would have said.