Hope in the Age of Darkness: Gifts of the Incarnation
Fear and the potential for harm. Human history is full of stories of conflict, abuse, war, and greed that begin as fear. And fear is what engulfed Joseph in this narrative.
Initially, it didn’t appear to be fear. We aren’t really clear on Joseph’s reasoning or his feelings when he he had discovered that Mary was pregnant and they had not been sexually active with each other. He could have made this fact known, and it was very possible that the religious zealots would have taken up stones to kill her. Even his decision to “quietly dismiss her” would have doomed her to a life of poverty and marginalization for having birthed a child outside of marriage. At this point in the story, Joseph is holding all the cards, leaving Mary in an incredibly vulnerable place.
Matthew begins his gospel focused on Joseph and the critical role Joseph will play in the narrative of God’s ultimate love. Then an angel appears in Joseph’s dream and tells him that the child born is holy and will be named Jesus … Yeshua (or Joshua) in Hebrew … literally “God Saves.” And then the angel cites the prophet Isaiah in saying that this is the one who will be known as Emmanuel … “God with us.”
If Joseph gave into his fear, it would have created hardship and cut short the story of God’s redemptive love. Could God have still worked God’s plan even without Joseph’s cooperation? Yes. But Joseph’s “yes,” is a sign of God’s incarnate love that overcomes our fear. Because Joseph lived beyond his fear, he became an instrument through which God’s redeeming presence would be made known.
I often wonder what our world would be like if we could hear the angel speak. What if we thought all children were gifts of God’s Holy Spirit? What would happen if we saw the Christ in every child? In every person? I’m thinking this is the broader definition of the incarnation. I think even Jesus thought God was fully made known in each child when he instructed his disciples to go beyond their fears and get out of the way of the children to let them come to him.
“God-Saves” and “God-With-Us” is made known through us, you see, when we live beyond our fear. When we are able to do this, we will have then discover that we have the Christ even within us!
God who saves us all: May we live beyond our fear and partner with you in making your redeeming presence felt in the life of every child. Amen.