It’s the fourth Sunday in Advent. We’ve been on the anticipation-to-Christmas journey. Not much different than the kids saying, “Are we there yet?” In fact I’m wondering the same thing. I’m writing this in stop-and-go traffic (welcome to California and, no, I’m not driving), outside San Bernadino, on the last leg of our Texas to California trip for the holidays. I’m wondering how your Advent journey has been and what has been awakened for you because you have been more mindful of Advent.
I think for me, I’ve been more aware of how God is present in small ways all around me. This isn’t a new revelation for me, it’s that I’m paying better attention to the small things going on around me. And I’m not talking about God opening up a parking space for me right in front of the store I’m going into.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is a lovely, haunting hymn sung during advent. Emmanuel means God with us. If I’m more mindful of God being with me, how can I be an extension of God to others? Being more aware guides me in having a stronger quality to my interactions and relationships with people.
The only player, in the Christmas story, we haven’t looked at yet is Joseph. He’s usually given a casual acknowledgement, but no one really considers much about what was asked of him. We get a snippet of Joseph’s situation in Matthew 1:18-25. Oh-oh, the angel appeared to him! That’s our clue that his world is going to be totally disrupted!
What stands out to me in this whole story is not that Joseph obeyed God by sticking by Mary when she turns up pregnant not with his child, but with how he sticks by Mary. I’m sure you can think of someone who stayed with a spouse even after they found out something horrible or difficult about their spouse. The real question is what was the quality of that relationship after their discovery? It’s not that it’s impossible, but many relationships don’t recover or the quality of the relationship is scarred…especially without outside support. Betrayal wounds us at our core and our hearts are slow to recover.
God is always writing the eternal love story to us. Emmanuel. I like to think that Joseph was extending God’s love to Mary and, in the process, was able to demonstrate his own love for her. I like to imagine that the angel’s message awakened him to how much he really loved Mary and that, even the inconvenient truth, wasn’t going to diminish his love for her.
There’s another old hymn, When Love Came Down at Christmas, that tells the story of God’s love coming to us in Emmanuel. In the midst of all the excitement and flurry of this week leading up to Christmas, let’s not lose sight of the gifts of love that are with us and may we be mindful of how we share those gifts of love with those around us.