A Cycle – 4th Sunday in Advent 16

Over the years I have come to learn some things that I call spiritual truths. These truths are fundamental to us growing in relationship with God and allowing us to open our hearts and lives to his mercy and love. One of those spiritual truths is how we must absolutely trust God’s plan for us, his promises made to us through the prophets and his absolute forgiveness of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If we do not trust in God’s forgiveness then what is the purpose of repentance. If we do not trust God forgives we will never be certain of our standing with God. We would be plagued with doubt instead of being confident our sins are forgiven and forgotten by God.   

If we do not trust then all we have learned about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will never change our faith enough to make a difference in our relationship with Him. Trust in the promises of God, the words and works of Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit opens us to experience the depth of God’s desire to be in relationship with us. It is when we feel his embrace that our hearts begin to sing the praises of God. Trust opens the door to belief and belief moves us from fear to seeking more and more of God’s presence.

Trust means that we accept that invitation to go to Jesus by stepping out of the boat and walk toward him on the water.  We know that is impossible and yet Jesus showed us how real it could be if we only trust him.  Last week we heard John the Baptist question Jesus in order to be certain he was the One who was to come.

In the beginning weeks of Advent we have heard gospel stories telling us to be prepared because we do not know the day or the hour.  That gospel story showed us how people mocked Noah because he trusted.  Instead of paying attention to God’s words they ignored them because God seemed far away.  Last week James told us to be patient in our expectations.  It is one thing to wait “hoping” something will happen and it is another to wait because our faith tells us God is with us and God never disappoints.

Today we hear the story of Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s pregnancy.  Joseph seems to be a minor figure in the story of the birth of Christ.  Mother and child are the center of attraction. That’s the way it is at every birth of every child born today – all eyes are on the mother and baby.   

In the story of the birth of Jesus, without Mary’s complete trust in God’s promise it would not have happened. She believed the unbelievable and responded to God by saying “let it be done according to your word.”   Talk about a water walking moment that was one and her yes made salvation a reality for us. God also chose Joseph to be the father of Jesus and I believe he was just as prepared for his role as Mary was for hers.

Don’t you think God prepared both Mary and Joseph for their roles when Isiah prophesied the messiah would be born of a virgin and that he would be of the lineage of David?  Eight hundred years before the birth of Jesus Isiah tells us that Mary and Joseph would be father and mother to the Son of God.  Joseph had to have the same qualities of faithfulness, integrity and trust as Mary had in order to raise the Son of God. Joseph was not his biological father but you and I know that fatherhood involves more than contributing 23 chromosomes. Fatherhood involves passing on morality, faith, honesty, a work ethic, integrity and an absolute trust in God’s plan.   

Joseph seems to waver when he decides to quietly divorce Mary rather than expose her to the law. You have to realize at this time he has not be included in the revelation of God’s plan of salvation.  In a way he is just like you and I in that aspect of what we know and what we believe. He knew she was pregnant and knew the story as Mary told it to him.  Joseph had a dilemma – Mary was pregnant – he was not the father – what does the law say should happen.

Since he is a man of integrity he would go through with the ceremony and quietly divorce her rather than expose her to the law of stoning. He was going to protect her image in the village and take on himself all the burden of divorce. His response sounds so much like something we would do, find and answer for the problem and act on it.

Then the remarkable happens, God reveals the plan to Joseph. That revelation changed everything.  Experiencing God’s presence is the key to everything.  It allows us as mere mortals to move beyond the impossible to feel the presence and power of God.  Knowing God or things of God are not enough to prepare us to trust God’s plan for our salvation.  We need to have an encounter with God.   

Does that mean it will be easy for us if we experience God’s presence? It certainly did not make Joseph’s life easier. You think God would have made it easy for Joseph and Mary to get to Bethlehem. You would think God would have moved some person’s heart to give up their room for a pregnant woman and her husband. You would think they would not have to flee in the middle of the night to escape the wrath of Herod. 

No if you read the scriptures what we learn is that trust is necessary to both experience the reality of God and to endure the hardships that threaten to destroy our trust in God.

God is always inviting you to invite him into your life and heart if – trust begins by us saying yes to the invitation. 

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