Fourth Advent Sunday
Word: the biblical starting point
“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”’
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT)
Wisdom: a guiding sentiment
“True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best.” Sinclair B. Ferguson
Weave: an intertwining of experience or reflection and the biblical story
Joseph had a plan in light of his circumstances. Engaged to a woman who was pregnant, a woman who claimed this supernatural gravidity was a blessing of God, a woman who testified that she was carrying the Messiah. I think Joseph was like most of us, trying to be the best person he could be when faced with incredibly difficult and unforeseen circumstances. He wanted to honour God. He must have wondered how this would play out in his religiously conservative family and community? How well did he know Mary? The circumstances were just too much to bear and rationalize. Before his encounter with an angel of the Lord, he had weighed all the possible outcomes and made a decision—break the engagement quietly in a manner that protected Mary as much as possible. He had weighed his relationship with Mary and found it without a good future. He found it wanting—needing, in fact—a supernatural redemption. To make a long story short, he received such a redemption in a supernatural revelation about Mary (her innocence) and the child she was carrying (Immanuel), and the Holy Spirit’s role in it all. Joseph discovered that his weighing of all the circumstances did not genuinely include Mary’s own testimony of God’s hand in this pregnancy. The “scale” he used was tethered to an earthly paradigm and not a heavenly one. In the end, as Scripture recounts, Joseph married Mary and honoured her role as the physical ark of God’s son.
Wrestle: pondering next steps
Advent is a great space for weighing; an opportunity for consciously and deliberately evaluating your journey to the celebration of Christ’s birth. Too many in the faith community stumble, bumble and rumble toward Christmas Day and then lament that the season was maddening. Poor planning for the season of Advent most likely equals an apathetic experience of it; a poor posture of the heart toward the Spirit during Advent usually equals an anemic divine encounter. Based upon my experience, I sense that a disciple’s best approach to celebrating the birth of King Jesus is to, like Joseph, deliberately weigh all the things one is presently doing or planning and set aside those that will detract from a meaningful encounter with this part of God’s grand salvation story. What do I need to stop doing, do differently or start doing in order for me to become more like Jesus during what remains of this Advent season? C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” And so, what needs weighing in my life? What personal value is there in weighing the remainder of my Advent plans or lack of them? What would weighing my priorities even look like? Feel like? Sound like?