A Cycle – 4th Sunday of Advent 19
Mt. 1: 18 – 24
We have been fortunate to have been born in this time, 2000 years after God’s plan to restore us was inaugurated with the birth of Jesus. We know from listening to and reading the scriptures Jesus was not readily accepted by many of those who eagerly awaited His coming. We know from the scriptures that Joseph, one of the principle figures in salvation history, could not understand nor accept Mary’s story of how she became pregnant. Joseph was ready to quietly back out of his betrothal to her because he could not comprehend how a virgin could become pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
I am not sure Joseph was thinking rationally because if he had quietly divorced her there would have come a time when she would have to explain her pregnancy. The Levitical law was clear, and she would have still been judged guilty for the evidence was obvious, she was with child and unmarried. But we know God’s plan did not include Mary being anything less than the one who would fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah: “…the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
Joseph is not alone in his lack of understanding God and His plan to restore our lost glory due to the sin of Adam. The scriptures are full of stories of how we fail to understand because God is constantly surprising us. The key to understanding is for us to know God will always be one step ahead of us and that will always leave us depending on faith not understanding.
I think there is a great lesson in this for us as we look at our own lack of boldness in expressing our faith. We often fail in our willingness to do exactly what Mary and Joseph did – openly embraced Jesus and take Him into their lives.
The problem is we believe we could never measure up to their great faith because they were so special. We believe we could ever compare our ability to follow God as did Mary and Joseph? There is no way we can ever match their willingness to follow God’s plan or can we. For if you consider their reaction to His plan for them it is clear they failed to understand any of what was happening. Mary exclaimed, “how can this be” and Joseph was looking for a way to release her without exposing her to the law.
As I said previously, the scriptures are full of the great figures in God’s plan of salvation and their failure to grasp what God was doing. But beyond what God was doing, they looked at their shortcomings and begged God to find someone else to do His will. We can learn from them. For they show us it does not depend on our understanding, only on our willingness to go where God leads us.
The lesson to learn is how a lack of understanding is not an obstacle to faith. Instead perhaps a lack of understanding is a greater asset than we can imagine. Abraham and Sarah failed to understand how they could ever conceive one child much less have descendants more numerous than the stars. Moses failed to understand with his lacking the ability to speak how he could ever convince Pharaoh to free the Israelite’s. Noah failed to understand the reason to build and ark and by doing so become an object of derision by his neighbors. Hosea was told by God to marry a harlot so he could prophesy about a lack of fidelity, did this make any sense to anyone.
Perhaps our not understanding is a blessing that we should embrace rather than seeking to comprehend. Acting on the promises made to us by God only requires us to exercise a trust fueled by faith. It means we know God will show up when we act on embracing one of God’s promises. That means we must put ourselves in a place where we can hear His voice speaking to our hearts. We need to form a deeper relationship with God in order to hear those promptings. More than that we need to seek those revelations from the Holy Spirit as we pray, read the scriptures and put ourselves into God’s presence as disciples.
God desires us to know Him, not fear Him or avoid Him. We will never get to know God until we know Jesus. We will never get to know Jesus until we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. It is when the Spirit comes into our hearts that we feel the love of God, and we know our sins are not the obstacles we allow them to be in our quest for holiness. Once we know God, our willingness to sit with Him increases and we begin to know we can depend on God to guide us, to speak to us and to make us feel invincible. This is where Joseph found himself as he heard God’s voice telling him not to be afraid to take Mary. He learned that night what we must learn which is “if God is for us, who can be against us.”
If God is for us, we know nothing can keep us from His loving embrace. Not our sins, not our doubts, not our lack of understanding, nor our lack of trusting in His promises. We can like Mary and Joseph act on His word knowing He will always give us signs of His presence and His power.
Then like Mary we will know our lives can and will proclaim the greatness of the Lord and our spirits can rejoice in God our savior. We will see His might in action and we will see His glory surround us, for He will lift us up and fill us with hope, certainty and a willingness to do His will.