This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:18-21 (Common English Bible)
I remember finding out that we were expecting our first child. My wife, Shannon, had been really sick for some 3-4 days and we could not figure out what was wrong. We were worried and I remember saying a little prayer as I dropped her off at the Dr.’s office. I drove back to pick her up, fearing the worst, a severe infection or some kind of life threatening illness. As she got into the car I looked at her and asked her what was wrong, “I’m pregnant!!”
Fear would be an understatement. Shock, terror, awe would be more like it. These are the normal feelings of a soon to be father. Joseph had already made the decision to care for Mary. Now he found himself having to care for another, not the fruit of their union, but the fruit of their cry to God. Out of nowhere the message comes, there is no need to be afraid, no need to let go, no need to walk away. Instead this father will have the opportunity to name this son, the one that in the end will save him and the whole world.
Naming becomes a proclamation of the promise: salvation for all people. Like many parents before and since, Joseph is to name his son, and in naming he claims his son’s identity. The name reminds all of them of Jesus’ purpose in life, a promise named. Each time they call, they calm, they teach, they’ll be reminded of the promise fulfilled. Each time that something does not go as planned and their world shows signs of needing a savior, they’ll know that one has been provided, the promise has been fulfilled.
This birth took place because people said yes to God. Everyday people, doing everyday things, opening their eyes to God’s activity in them and in the world. I wonder how we are saying yes in ways that make possible God’s continued coming in Jesus? I wonder how we are saying yes in ways that rehearse the salvation that has been promised?
For those of us waiting for Jesus’ coming again this scripture reminds us that his coming, like that first one, will happen in an unexpected way. It will be unexpected because it will be deeply rooted in what God is doing in the everyday things of life. Things like making covenants, preparing, dreaming dreams, expecting new life, naming, can become signs of God’s kingdom in the world. In claiming them as God’s own we proclaim the goodness of creation in the midst of much brokenness, fear, and strife.
Advent forces us to recognize God’s doings in our broken world. These little interruptions remind us that God is not finished with us and with the world. There is no need to fear, no need to flee, no need to give up on the promise made. There is no need to be anxious of the unknown. Instead let us dream dreams and pay attention to what God is doing. When we pay attention we’ll find out that the plan of God is being fulfilled everyday in ways too many to name. In the midst of life, God’s promise of salvation for all people.
In this season of Advent let’s open our eyes, let’s dream dreams, and make plans, let’s live our lives knowing that this is how the coming takes place . . .