Monday, December 20, 2010
every Christmas is the same
Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24 Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory; Romans 1:1-7; Matt 1:18-24
Tis past week, we had midterms at the school. Most of the time was spent taking test, cramming for test, cleaning out lockers, trying to locate lost assignments, and mostly chaos.
When the tests were finished, the dust had cleared, and the crying had ended, some of the teachers allowed their classes to watch Christmas movies. The teachers pulled out the old classics like Rudolph, Frosty, A christmas Story, Its a Wonderful Life and the like.
I happened to be in the fifth grade class when they were watching Rudoplh, the red nose reindeer. The graphics were awful and the animation was terrible but the kids were riveted, on the edge of their seats curious about what was going to happen next with the rednose reindeer and the elf that wanted to be a dentist.
I couldn't help but think of my own childhood. About this time of year, when we were chidlren, after all the chores were done, we would gather in the living room around the woodstove. We didn't have central air and heat. We had a woodstove and windows.
We would all be in the living room, all ten of us and then mom and Dad and sometimes grandma, lying on the floor, sititng on the couch, stuck behind the stove watching the christmas classics when they aired.
I always got a big kick out of Rudolph and the misfit toys, Frosty and his magical hat, A christmas story and the air rifle, or its a wonderful Life and James Stewart trying to rope the moon.
But the one that stands out most is, "Charlie Brown's Christmas."
Chalrie Brown goes to buy a tree and all that remains is the ugliest and most pathetic tree in the shop. He takes it home puts an ornament on it and it crashes to the ground. As the show progresses, the characters wanted to have a christmas play. Sudeenly Linus appears, the character with the security blanket, and he has these words to share, "Every Christmas is the Same. I always play the shepherd."
"Every Christmas is the Same."
It is true. Every christmas is the same. It is the same story told year after year. We all know what is coming next, the child in the manger, the magi, the shepherds. There is no big surprise. We know it all by heart and we know the main characters.
JEsus is the star of the story of salvation. He gets center stage and the spot light, literally the star that shines bright. He is the reason the crowds gather, the magi travel, the shepherds shake in the fields, and the angels sing "Glory to God in the highest."
Then there are the co-stars, like Mary. Mary is pretty important. She follows Jesus from the cradle to the cross, to the burial and resurrection and even Pentecost. She walks with him every step of the way. Mary gets a lot of attention. Besides she even has lines, speaking parts. And when she speaks, we listen. Her "yes" to God is pretty important..."be it doen to me according to thy word." We often look to Mary for guidance and direction to shine a little light to help us live our faith to say our "yes."
Then there is the other co-star, John the Baptist. He also gets a lot of attention. Everyone notices John the Baptist. The mysterious figure that appears in the desert crying, "repent." He stands on the banks of the Jordan with those cool clothes, Camel Hair shirt, and a awesome diet of wild honey and locust. Here is a man with a plan who is single minded in getting the job done and preparing the way for the lord. He wants to set the world on fire and at the same time strike the axe to the root of the tree that bears bad fruit. He doesn't mince his words. He has one gear,and its full throttle for truth and justice.
John is the one that points to JEsus and says, "Behold the lamb of God." In the same breath he is arrested and thrown in jail and eventually loses his head because he isn't afraid to stand firm in truth.
We all know these players in salvation history and they get a lot of attention. But in today's gospel we catch a glimpse of another minor character, Jospeh. Joseph is an unassuming player. He is often lost in the back ground, almost like a movie extra. He makes a cameo appearance and then vanishes. He arrives on the scene in the beginning; he gets Mary and Jesus to Bethlehm and then to Egypt and then to Nazareth and he disappears, out of sight and out of mind.
He doesn't even have lines or speaking parts. He arrives on the scene, plays his part, and then vanishes without ever saying one single word. His role is silent and unassuming.
But His role is essential. It is through Jospeh, as the foster Father of Jesus, that Jesus is able to fulfill the prophecy. Joseph is a desecendant of David, which makes Jesus a descendant of David. It is through Joseph, the throne of David becomes the throne of God and the kingdom divided is now united in christ. (See 2 Samuel chapter 7) The kingdom of David now is a kingdom that knows no end because of Joseph's silent unassuming role.
Jospeh in his silent and unassuming way paves the path for salvation history to unfold.
Even the smallest role is essential in God's plan.
But let us take a closer look at Joseph for a moment.
In the gospel we have the gut check of Jospeh. He discovers his bride to be is pregnant and it isn't his child. Jospeh was obviously distraught and probably an emotional wreck. Think of the betrayal and hurt he must have gone through.
He knows what the precepts of the law says...an adulterous woman should be stoned to death. He also knows the precepts and demands of love...unwilling to shame her he decides to divorce her quietly.
Joseph must have loved Mary deeply. True love never wants to shame the one it loves no matter the circumstances. Joseph is willingly to risk his own reputation by seeking to save the reputation and honor of the woman he loves regardless of the situation.
What a beautiful man! How many of us would do that today? He shows himself to be selfless and willing to never betary love regardless of the circumstances or even his own hurt. He takes the moral high road.
So he is torn by love.
Then he has this dream. The angel tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife becasue she is concieved by the Holy Spirit.
Now pause for a moment.
When we speak of Mary's 'yes' to the angel we must also note that her 'yes' was probably a little easier than Joseph's. Mary had first hand experience of the angel and even of her virginity. She knew she was still a virgin after the angel departed. Besides she was without sin and full of grace. This certainly empowers her to respond more readily to the invitation of God.
Now look at Joseph. Joseph is not concieved without sin. He is like the rest of us. Also, he did not have first hand experience of the angel and Mary. He had to not only take Mary's word for it and but also the angel's word. Joseph was on the outside looking in. His "yes" required a little more trust because it was spoken with a little more darkness surrounding.
Like a poker player, he was all in waiting for the river to come forth.
Joseph is a perfect model for us. Like Joseph we are always on the outside looking in. We are always walking a little in the darkness waiting for the mystery of tomorrow to unfold. We are silent and unassuming.
Our role isn't the one with the spotlight. People won't write books about us. We will arrive on the scene, stay awhile and then vanish out of sight and out of mind.
Yet, Joseph teaches us that our role, no matter how small or insignificant it seems, can be very very essential.
Though we do not have the spotlight, we must always seek to walk in the light of faith. The mystery of tomorrow will unfold, uncertainty and darkness will be present. It won't always make sense, but that is why it is called walking in faith.
To Joseph his life didn't make a whole of sense. His marriage was quickly becoming something he didn't expect or bargain for. He didn't plan on having a wife who was expecting a child of the Holy Spirit. He wasn't sure what that might entail. The mystery of tomorrow was beyond his grasp. All he had was today.
In didn't make a sense. But never once does God ask him to make sense out of it. God simply asked him to let it make faith for him.
God doesn't ask us to understand life fully but he does ask us to allow life to teach us about how to have faith.
If everything went according to our plan and our expectation, would we really need faith???
Joseph suspended his expectation, trusted in God plan not his own, walked forth in the darkness as it gave way to the light of faith and when he awoke, "he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded."
Most of us spend our days and nights and years still dreaming. We keep trying to make life fit our expectations, our plans, and God all the while is trying to get us to wake up, the dream must end and reality must take over.
It doesn't make sense but it will make faith.
Every Christmas is the same. Joseph wakes from his dream, sets aside his expectations and plans, and enters fully into the great adventure of salvation history.
Perhaps we too should wake up...
"I wil lead the blind on their journey; by paths unknown I will guide them;
I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight."