Here’s the reflection I wrote for the 2019 Advent series published by my alma mater, Jesuit School of Theology:
|Fourth Sunday of Advent|
Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24
This is how the birth of the Savior came about… something went awry. Holy Spirit subverted the law. With the Spirit’s encouragement, Joseph ignored the law – twice – and lived into a new way, thus opening the path for God to accomplish the salvation of the people…
Everything was going fine. The young Mary was pledged in marriage to the responsible Joseph. Families agreed. Bride price was paid. All that was left to do was wait to formally establish a household. The same story as their cousins, neighbors, and temple community.
And then it wasn’t.
The same story would not bring about the salvation of the world; it was time for a new story.
When Joseph looked to the Law for what to do, it didn’t help:
“But if a new husband cannot find evidence of the young woman’s virginity, they shall bring the young woman to the entrance of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death, because she committed a shameful crime in Israel by prostituting herself in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.”
~Deuteronomy 22: 20-22
How many times had Joseph witnessed public execution? Did he know from experience what brutal atrocity for which the Law called? I picture him agonizing over this decision for many nights, well before the angel came. What to do?
In this new story, the man did not exercise his legal right to have the woman publicly killed. In this story, the man allowed his heart to take over where his brain may have inflicted slaughter. It seems that when he checked the Law against his conscience, they did not match. He needed to ignore it and submit to the inklings of his conscience.
In this story, this man says ENOUGH.
He had already decided this when the angel arrives and pushes him to ignore the Law in sending Mary away quietly. The angel then tells him to take one step further. “Do not push her away. Bring her in. There is more to this story.”
God, show us where you want us to draw closer to the unexpected. When we may want to distance ourselves from what seems like trouble, give us wise hearts to know when to cozy up and when to place distance. Send us your courageous Spirit whose guidepost is Love that we may continue to help clear the way for your saving work in the world. Amen.