An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Twenty-Two

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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, her fiancé, was a good 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

In my book, Joseph is a rock-star. Kind, generous, steady, committed, teachable, receptive.

God chose a good man. And sometimes, I wonder if Joseph’s presence in her life might have been one of the reasons why God chose Mary, too. 

Not much is known about him and he is never mentioned as a living person after that interesting episode in the temple, when Jesus is 12. Tradition teaches us that Mary was widowed early on. Maybe, maybe not. What I do know to be true is that Jesus had a stellar role model in the man chosen to be his earthly father.

And that goes way beyond his lineage and heritage. Yes, he is in the line of David and that gives Jesus the traditional ties to his people that he needs to be recognized as Messiah. More than that, however, is the character of this man, which we see most fully in this short story, told only in Matthew’s gospel.

I think Joseph loved Mary. That verb is never used, of course. It was, in some ways, a foreign concept in 1st century Palestine, at least in reference to married partners. But he clearly respected her, valued her reputation, wanted to do the right thing, the best thing.

Trouble was, he truly didn’t know what that was. He assumed that the right thing was to let her down gently. To dissolve their legal commitment quietly, in essence, to divorce her behind the scenes. It took some divine intervention for him to see that his idea of the ‘right thing’ was wide of the mark.

So, how often do I get it wrong? How often do I make an assumption, based on cultural expectations?  And I mean church culture as well as ‘worldly’ culture when I ask that question.

Joseph was a good man. Matthew takes the time to tell us that. But sometimes, even a good man doesn’t know what the right thing is. Humility is called for, and an openness to the workings of God within us.

That dream of Joseph’s?

It was a life-changer and a life-saver.

But Joseph had to be willing to listen to it, didn’t he? Sometimes, our dreams are where we discover what is right for us to do, too. I firmly believe that God speaks to us in our dreams — the ones we have when we’re sleeping and the ones we have when we’re awake. What we’re asked to do is pay attention. 

Lord of our dreams, speak to us. Hearten us, encourage us with the dreams you raise in us, the desires of our hearts, the call you send to us through the vehicle of our longing. Help us to be more like Joseph – to deeply desire to do the right thing, but to be open to a new understanding of what that thing could be.

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Comments

  1. I need to pay attention here. there were specific dreams I had when I retired March 1st of this year. – dreams that I believed were God-given, not just stuff I wanted to do. But I couldn’t pursue any of them for months and only recently have I seen there is hope I may be able to do a bit in those directions….at least for the moment. I have been hesitant to even begin to move there, because, well because they seemed so hopeless.

    I remember one day a few weeks after everything fell apart, being so desperately sad and I felt God suggesting I give my dreams and plans to him to hold until the time was right. That has given me hope , yet at times I have been tempted to think it was just a thing I thought up to make me feel better at the moment.

    Now I have had a couple things happen – affirmations that my desires/dreams were real and were God given. So I find myself starting to take a few faltering steps, still knowing God holds the dreams, knowing what is normal today may not be normal for tomorrow.

    Thanks for this Diana.

    • I absolutely believe that God has been holding those dreams for you, Carol, and I celebrate with you that now seems to be the time for a window to open on those dreams. Grateful you shared this with me.

  2. May God grant us more and more good men who know how to listen to God.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  3. I really like this one, Diana. ‘Sometimes even a good man doesn’t know what the right thing is.’ So true! I often feel like that in parenting – I’m doing the best I know how to do, and then my kids do something and I think, ‘I have no idea what to do now!’ The problem is that they’re expecting me to come up with a solution right now!
    I love what you say about dreams too… more to say, but kids need my attention :)

    • Exactly, Donna. We don’t always know what the best choice is. And it’s okay – because God goes with us through every choice, good, bad or indifferent. May you continue to have a blessed Christmas, Donna. I’ve loved the pictures on FB!!

  4. Diana, thank you for pointing out Joseph’s human nature, at least one that most people try to express, to do the right thing. But also his openness, to doing the God-thing. I think I have approached the stories and the people of the Bible with a prideful spirit at times thinking I would have acted differently. But the truth is I probably would think along the “cultural” norms first. I pray for dreams. I have only had one and it was a warning. I told to someone who needed the warning. They dismissed me.

    I had a “vision” as I was writing one day. I wrote what I was seeing as I wrote. How it spoke into my life and showed me a path I needed to see.

    I am waiting… quietly. This is the quiet before the Christmas storm that surely will come but tonight there is peace…so thankful. And thankful for the new blogging friend you have become to me. Thank you for you encouragement and your ministry here on the www. It blesses me so. Merry Christmas. Hope ya’ll have a white Christmas out there in Cali :).

    • So delighted to have you along with me on this journey through Advent, Dea. I’m grateful with you for that vision, and I’m grateful for the quiet in which you find yourself just now. Praying for you and your and your whole family as you celebrate this year – a bittersweet time, I’m sure.

  5. Lori Coleman says:

    Wow! sometimes the right thing is wrong. I am going to ponder this thought. Thank you.

    • could it be that it isn’t wrong, just that one is doing the best with the information one has at the time, being open to further insight and a new of doing something…not being locked into the first plan. I didn’t seee Joseph’s idea as being wrong, but actually merciful to Mary with what he knew at the time. and the beauty is that he was open to another way of being. the “wrong” would come in if he insisted on remaining with his first option , even in light of new information. thoughts Diana?

      • I agree, Carol – it was merciful and gentle. It just wasn’t the best solution. Sometimes the good thing isn’t the best thing, you know? He needed a bit of revelation, as it turned out, to see the full picture. And to decide to trust that what Mary had undoubtedly told him was actually true.

    • I put the word in quotes, Lori. Technically, in that time and that place, Joseph’s choice was the ‘right’ one, even the kind one. It just wasn’t the best one. And more importantly, it wasn’t God’s choice.

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