Read Matthew 1:18-25
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
I would like to tell you as story of a teenage girl who lived in a very tight-knit community. She was, like the rest of her peers, expected to attend to the daily chores that were given to her each day. She was expected to carry herself in a way that brought dignity and honor to her family. Like all families, her family expected that she was always on her best behavior and that she didn’t do anything to hurt her family’s name or image.
Her father was blue-collar, working class man. The girl’s family was pretty impoverished and what little they had came at the cost of much blood, sweat and tears. The family never knew what tomorrow might bring and they could not afford to take anything for granted. In fact, an offer had come to the teenage girl’s parents, one that her family could not afford to pass up. A man had asked the girl’s father for her hand in marriage and, with such an offer, a dowry was sure to follow. The girl was expected to comply with her parents and to marry the man they had arranged for her to marry.
But then one day, in the midst of their engagement, the girl is seen to be with child. The groom-to-be is astonished. He swears to the parents that he has never known her the way a husband knows his wife; he swears that the child growing in her belly cannot be his. The parents, horrified, could not believe what their daughter had done; the community she lived in shunned her as a sinner, everyone looked down at her with contempt.
This is the story of Mary, a young teenager from Nazareth, who was suddenly found to be with child even though she had not yet been married. Can you imagine the panic and terror that must have filled her when she first realized she was pregnant. Though, the author of Matthew tells us that Mary was with child “by the Holy Spirit,” one has to wonder whether she knew it or not. The author of Matthew doesn’t exactly say. What he does point out is Joseph’s initial reaction to the situation. He could not believe she was pregnant and he knew the child was not his; one thing was for sure, he was not going to marry her.
When we read this story, we often pass Joseph’s reaction off because we know how the story ends. We know that Jesus is the Son of God and, therefore, Joseph just seems like a guy who has little faith, until God wakes him up in a dream. Yet, in reality, we all need to be woken up in such a dream. After all, how many times have we passed judgment on the actions of others without truly seeing what God has in store for them? How many times have we seen a pregnant teen, an unruly child, or some other person who doesn’t fit our understanding of pure and wholesome? How many times have we passed judgment on those people?
Often times, we are much more like Joseph, quick to let our thoughts and our judgments run wild before really pausing to listen to what God is saying to us. We often need to be woken up in a dream that shows us that the very things we are laying judgment on are filled with God’s potential if we just show love, acceptance and support rather than scorn, contempt and judgment.
Thankfully, Joseph woke up from that dream with a changed heart and chose to embrace Mary and the Christ child she was bearing! Thankfully, Joseph laid his judgments down and, as a result, unto us a hope, healing and wholeness was born into the world. The question is, will we be woken up in a dream like Joseph? This Christmas, may the advent of that awakening be within you; indeed, may it be within us all!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa
Lord, help me to avoid falling into the trap of judgment. Instruct me in your ways of unconditional love, O God. Amen.